Promoting wellbeing in International Schools with insights from Child Psychology Specialists

POSTED: April 9, 2024Category: GeneralBY: digitial

We spoke to industry student mental health and wellbeing experts about the challenges that both schools and students face in the modern world and gathered their best advice for international schools.

1. Encourage a healthy disconnect with devices

Ultimately, we can’t discuss student wellbeing without recognising the impact of the latest technologies and social media.

Industry expert, Louisa Rose, has identified ways to help you mitigate the impact of these devices, while still recognising their positive impacts. The key is to remove the temptation, which we all fall victim to, and create a natural disconnect between yourself and your technology.

Examples of strategies that you can employ both in your school and in your personal lives include:
• Wear a watch to remove the urge to pick up your smartphone so you don’t get lost down the rabbit hole of notifications and social media
• Set achievable screen time and app limits – you can monitor these each week using the screen time settings on your phone
• Encourage screen free areas – make bedrooms, classrooms, libraries, or sports fields “no screen zones” and avoid charging devices in the bedroom
• Limit access during the school day, where it makes most sense – for example, designate one or more days per week as “screen-free”

2. Innovate your core curriculum and integrate support services

Schools are busy environments. Your staff and students are primarily focused on academic achievement, and student support and wellbeing are often considered a supplement to learning, rather than a key component of your curriculum.

Child psychologist, Catherine Steiner-Adair, suggests that schools should re-envision their approach to learning and their core curriculum in order to best support students.

New features on the curriculum could include:
• Tech health and wellbeing: Discuss the impacts of smartphones and technology on individuals, backed by research, to enable students to make smarter choices with their devices and online experience.
• Tech ethics and digital citizenship: Appeal to the natural social justice campaigners within your learners to help them understand the wider impacts of the technology industry, thereby enabling them to reach their full potential.
• Diversity and equity: Encourage connection across cultures and religions, which is key for international schools, and enable students to form a sense of belonging within their student body.

3. Teacher and parent education are vital

Chances are that your students are more tech and social media literate than both your teacher and student community. Your parents may also feel they need further advice in supporting their children at home.

It’s also important to note that today’s teachers are asked to take on more responsibilities than ever before. They are a first line of defence against potential wellbeing concerns and often have the best opportunity to identify risk factors early.

Consider whether you can offer extra training or drop-in sessions for the wider school community. For instance, Catherine Steiner-Adair has noted that some of the most positive schools that she’s worked with operate tech training sessions for parents. The key is to extend the education into the home environment.

4. International schools require an inclusive philosophy

International schools often face additional challenges in managing student wellbeing, with a variety of factors to take into consideration, including varying religious beliefs, community and political values, and challenges caused by a multi-lingual student body.

To best support multi-lingual students, consider building partnerships with likeminded psychologists in or from the country of origin for your students. This can help to provide students with care using the right context and framework, as well as resolving any issues caused by a language barrier.

Similarly, successful international schools might operate a student or family buddy system for learners that have moved from another country. This again helps to build that all-important sense of community.

The hardest step in prioritising student wellbeing is realising its significance. Once you recognise the need to embody a wellbeing-first ethos, implementing the strategies is an achievable challenge.


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