Wellbeing is a big thing these days; there are endless TV shows, magazines and YouTube channels devoted to it. But should it be taught in schools?
Many years ago when our parents were in school, they were taught academic subjects, but they were also taught life skills. Things like home economics, needlework and woodwork were standard for many children so that when they grew to be adults they were able to perform basic tasks around the home. This was especially true for girls who, it was assumed, would be spending their adult lives as housewives and so needed to be able to cook and sew.
These homemaking skills have been phased out of the curriculum over the years in favour of more academic subjects, but is it possible the curriculum is now too academic, with our children not being taught enough about how to navigate the twists and turns of life? As well as the possibility of bringing back subjects like home economics, many schools are now opting to teach classes focused on wellbeing - to help children to cope with the stresses of life now and in the future.
Our children are among the most tested in the world, with seemingly endless gradings and assessments. Some children will breeze through these without a problem, but for many this pressured environment can cause anxiety and stress. Could wellbeing classes be the answer to this problem?
Martin Seligman, the founder of the Positive Psychology movement, believes that teaching wellbeing in schools can improve children’s lives as well as driving up test results. In fact, Seligman’s research has shown that we can potentially help children to experience lower levels of anxiety and depression throughout their lives, by teaching them cognitive and emotional skills now.
The problem is that these days with so many tests and league tables, teachers don’t have the time to add in extra lessons on wellbeing - that gap in the timetable would need to be created by teaching less of something else. Could parents help then, by teaching wellbeing and coping skills at home?
This is not as daunting as it sounds; there are plenty of YouTube videos to help children learn mindfulness, meditation and even yoga. While these might seem a little "fluffy” and surplus to requirements, studies have shown time and time again just how effective mindfulness can be in not only treating anxiety and depression but also in preventing them.
With one in four people being treated for a mental health condition every year, could teaching our children simple wellbeing skills be a way of lowering that statistic in years to come?