At Place2Be schools we offer all children the opportunity to talk to a counsellor if something is concerning them – we call this Place2Talk.
As a children’s mental health charity we promote the idea that it is OK to talk about your worries and that being able to ask for help is an important and necessary life skill.
Yet in some settings, these ideas are not common place.
For some people, there is still an idea that men and boys should not show their feelings – certainly not their softer, more tender feelings – and that they should, on the whole, deal with their troubles on their own. That is often seen as the ‘manly way’ to deal with it.
Before Christmas, a small group of boys, aged around eight, dropped in to Place2Talk. They were worried about a friend of theirs. His parents had recently divorced and they knew he was upset about it.
But he was not a boy who spoke about his feelings.
They didn’t want to embarrass him. Instinctively they knew that he was suffering, although perhaps without the right words to talk about it. By age 8, many boys may already feel that there is a masculine approach – a code of behaviour – for difficult and upsetting feelings.
These boys wanted to find a way to offer support to their friend on his terms.
Besides the collective kindness of these boys, they were proposing an extremely sophisticated way of implementing that kindness.
Over a couple of fifteen-minute sessions, they came up with a variety of ways of being with their friend – at school and outside of school – so that he could sense their support, and understand their willingness to be there for him, particularly at this time.
One day, out of the blue and out of character, the boy they were supporting turned up at Place2Be’s door.
“I want to talk,” he said. “My friends told me that it’s ok here. I miss my dad.”
Kindness transcends words. It’s in a gesture – a look – simple consideration of another’s feelings – and it is the bedrock of all good relationships.
While I might prefer that we encourage our boys to speak openly about their feelings, there is a long way to go before that becomes the norm.
In the meantime, so much can be achieved within our schools and our homes – by spreading a little kindness.
This Children’s Mental Health Week (6-12 February) Place2Be is encouraging children to ‘spread a little kindness’, by looking out for classmates who may be having a difficult time, listening to how they feel, and if they need it, asking an adult for help.
For more information, please visit www.childrensmentalhealthweek.org.uk
Jonathan Wood is the Place2Be National Manager for Scotland. Place2Be is the UK’s leading provider of school-based emotional and mental health services, working in over 280 primary and secondary schools across the UK.