Let’s Connect

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As adults, we understand the power of connections. Whether it be friends or family, or indeed colleagues we work with, the strength of feeling part of something is an invisible force of good for our well-being.

So this being Children’s Mental Health Week is a timely reminder to us all about the importance of making meaningful connections – this year’s theme for the campaign. 

I remember the first day my son started secondary school. He was the only one to join from his school, and was on his own. His mum, a teacher at the school, watched his opening days with tears in her eyes.

Day one – he sat alone eating his lunch. Day two – the same. Day three…and by now I could hardly contain my tears at work – how will he cope? And then along came a connection that changed his world. He was tasked with looking after another new starter, who, like my son, knew no one. 

From that day, he flourished. His little gang of mates is now the scaffolding that keeps his time in school upright and secure, and all of a sudden his Mum and I are virtual bystanders. 

But that’s good, right? He had a complicated start in life – not talking until he was almost five, and needed TA support throughout his Junior School days. Was Senior School a challenge too far? And yet within three days at a new school, he found his path. Joining the dots with someone like him. From there more connections were made which led him to today – a happy boy growing up in an ever changing world. For his Mum and I there is pride – bursting out in abundance every time he comes home with another golden ticket – more often for acts of kindness than academia, but it doesn’t change the colour or significance of the reward.

For someone who has witnessed first hand the impact of mental health problems in my family, the initiative and drive Children’s Mental Health provides is intoxicating. There is a desire to help equip our youngest, to deal with the knocks, and to understand the power of talking. Talking helps. A problem halved…

To quote the campaign themselves, “When we have healthy connections – to family, friends and others – this can support our mental health and our sense of wellbeing. And when our need for rewarding social connections is not met, we can sometimes feel isolated and lonely – which can have a negative impact on our mental health.”

So learning to connect with others in healthy, rewarding and meaningful ways is imperative for everyone’s wellbeing. This week at the Junior School, students have participated in assemblies and discussions including one led by our ‘Wellbeing Warriors’ – enabling students’ voices to be heard, offering an understanding from their peers of what they or others may be feeling anxious about. 

Teaching our children the importance of connections, and recognising the strength in communicating how they feel, is a skill that will stay with them throughout their lives. With the support of Children’s Mental Health Week, and Teen Tips, the new well-being website available to all Senior School students and parents, information and advice is more widely available than ever before, giving them the best chance to lead happy, healthy lives in the years ahead.

“Let’s connect” may well be the theme for this year’s campaign for kids, but there is a thing or two we adults can take from it as well. As a shy man, my son saw me struggle in social situations, and he had two paths in front of him – learned behaviour or tread a new path. He chose wisely. And now a proud Dad, I have much to learn from him…but it’s not too late.

Pete Holliday
Director of Marketing and Admissions

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