Listen to the children’s psychosocial needs!
A positive school culture promotes psychosocial well-being among children.

The psychosocial refers to the relationship between an individual’s mental state and factors or events occurring in the individual’s social environment.

A child’s psychosocial well-being is a critical aspect of his or her overall development. It has direct impact on emotional development, interpersonal skills, self-confidence, conflict management skills, moral development as well as the child’s overall potential for success, among other associations.

Various environments account for the quality of the child’s psychosocial state, chief among these are the home and school.

THE HOME

The home is the child’s first agent of psychosocial structuring. A home environment that provides comfort, affection, and safety will positively impact children’s psychosocial well-being.

These children will learn to trust. They believe in their parents and family members’ ability and commitment to protect and provide for them. The provision of these essential developmental amenities gives children a strong sense of emotional and physical security. These children are happy, they make friends easily, and are more willing to share their thoughts and feelings. Additionally, these children are more equipped to buffer emotional setbacks they may experience outside of the home.

On the contrary, when the social environment within the home lacks these stabilities, children become distrustful and emotionally unattached, which results in children who are fearful, unhappy, insecure, and anxious, all indicators of an unhealthy psychosocial state.

The home is usually the first place where children flex their autonomy muscles. Homes that provide opportunities for children to exercise independence, whether by completing chores, initiating a task, or preparing a meal on their own are helping them to develop a sense of independence and mastery.

Facilitating children’s independence builds their self-esteem and their self-confidence. More importantly, when errors are met with encouragement and assurance, children are more inclined to believe in their abilities and reattempt, which, in turn, encourages psychosocial health.

When the home environment is restrictive, children are deprived of the opportunity to build their sense of independence. Similarly, when their attempts to establish independence is met with mockery or harsh criticisms, children are made to believe that they are incapable. Acknowledging the impact of the home environment on children’s psychosocial status and taking the necessary actions to create a positive social environment in the home is an integral step is helping children to develop.

THE SCHOOL

The school environment is another factor of significant influence on children’s psychosocial well-being. A school environment that fosters inclusion, respect, peace, and a general sense of support is very helpful in assisting children to develop psychosocial health. Such environments give children a greater sense of emotional security within the learning space.

Similarly, school curriculums that make provision for skill and talent development, participation in clubs and societies as well as school representation at various events are making direct deposits towards the development of children’s self-confidence, self-esteem, and sense of mastery.

Activities such as these also help children to develop their interpersonal skills and help them to view the school as an environment safe for expression of self. Classroom environments that promote inclusion and respect for all students help significantly in building positive psychosocial attributes. When teachers commend effort, irrespective of responses being correct or incorrect, and provide constructive criticism of students’ output, they help students to develop mastery and build their self-confidence.

Fairness in addressing disciplinary matters and parity in the enforcement of rules also impacts children’s psychosocial well-being.

When children trust the school’s disciplinary system to be transparent and impartial they are less likely to become resentful. They will come to understand and appreciate that the lessons learnt from being disciplined are not meant to harm but to teach them morally acceptable behaviour.

The quality of relationship among students and between staff and students also impacts the child’s psychosocial health. A school environment that encourages students to respect each other and take prompt corrective actions when students fail to do same is promoting positive mental health. By doing so the school is ensuring that every child has a sense of belonging, irrespective of his or her social background. Likewise, a school environment that encourages respect between staff and students helps children to feel regarded and valued.

In total, a positive school culture promotes psychosocial well-being among children.

Children who are confident are happier, have a more optimistic outlook on life, and are less likely to be socially maladaptive. Creating home and school environments that foster positive psychosocial development in children is a critical step towards ensuring that children are mentally healthy and are poised to become assets to themselves and others.

Ensuring that children develop positive psychosocial attributes is a deliberate act of empowering them to speak up. It also assures them that we will listen.

Onnica Morris is acting head of the guidance and counselling department at Sam Sharpe Teachers’ College. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or onnica.morris@samsharpe.edu.jm.

Facilitating children’s independence builds their self-esteem and their self-confidence.
ONNICA MORRIS

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