Is challenging behaviour a mental health issue? Of course it often is!
As a psychologist one of the issues that has concerns me most is that people too often make a bold distinction between young people who present with oppositional and challenging behaviour and young people who present with issues such as eating disorders, depression, anxiety and self-harm.
Challenging behaviour and anxiety and depression as examples can look very different. At first regard they demand different skill sets from adults. And if help is not forthcoming one group may end up as adults in psychiatric services whilst the other may end up in youth offending and criminal justice services.
But what are the connections? And what are the implications? What if these two growing social issues were much more closely connected and needed to be thought about as two sides of the same coin?
Challenging behaviour and mental health issues are profoundly interconnected and the reason lies in a much greater appreciation of child development and of what young people need from their relationships with adults, and why, in order to thrive.
Children with challenging behaviour often have difficulty being able to put their feelings and thoughts in words. They can be helped but without such help, we can be sure that they will struggle in relationships and this will become a mental health issue. Sometimes the most challenging behaviour is shown by children who have stopped being able to feel sensitive and vulnerable feelings. These are the children who seem to show little empathy or remorse and are the children who concern us most in terms of the dangers that they can present to others. They are children who have often been deeply wounded by their life experiences.
What is the solution? The solution to young people's challenging behaviour and mental health problems commonly lies in what adults need to be doing differently, and therefore I believe the solution also lies in more adults being willing to make time to stop and think and learn about what is happening at a deeper level.
The challenges can seem enormous and overwhelming. Where to start? There is not a quick fix solution. My observation however is that positive change can and does happen but when it does, it always starts with individuals who are willing to take responsibility for educating themselves.
If you are an adult who is willing to learn more about what is needed from you and other adults to help your child or a group of children in your setting - then why not talk with others and start a study group in your area? For more information about the I Matter Online Course click here. If you want to register with a group discount we run a course each term. Alternatively you can sign up for an Anytime Option.
I have had a lot of fun with creating this! Plenty of ways it could be improved but hey, I think
its good enough for now!
I have had a wonderful time recently teaching I Matter Principles in a crash 3 week course to 60 year 6 pupils (aged 10-11yrs old) at Ghyllside Primary School in Kendal. This was a thoughtful part of the preparation of the pupils in their coming process of transitioning to the secondary school
The sessions went very well and the group caught on quickly to some of the key ideas. The staff at the school have already taken part in an I Matter staff inset and so I was pleased when it was widely agreed that this group of pupils would benefit from time to think about how to understand and manage their own feelings.
Just as with adults in session 1, I started off with an exercise in which we thought together about what they already knew about the symptoms of stress. It did not take them long to identify a good long list of physical sensations, emotions, behaviours and thinking patterns - ie the I Matter symptoms of RED. Just as with adults it was more challenging for them to identify the sensations, emotions, behaviours and thinking patterns of GREEN.
In session 2 I introduced the simple I Matter model of the brain. The pupils were actively engaged and interested and we had an interesting though all too short discussion about what RED and GREEN looked like, including such things as the nature of memory and thought at a brain level. By Session 3 using examples, such as 'how do you think you would feel if one of your best friends says they don't want to play with you?' we were exploring the nature of Stimulus - Belief - Response and the ideas were flowing fast. "My stomach would feel hot and I would want to hit him", was a spontaneous sharing from the group.
I believe that nurturing this informed self-awareness is critically important for all children, but particularly for our most complex children. In the complex world in which we live, and in which they often live or have lived, words for feelings is a critical empowering tool that can give a child the ability to handle challenging situations without becoming part of an escalating process.
Of course, we always need more time to discuss such issues.... but I hope that a few small seeds will have taken root. If you would like to learn more about how i Matter Training can help you build your confidence in helping the children in your care gain this critical language for and understanding of feelings, why not contact me on email@example.com!
Dr Cathy Betoin
Dr Cathy Betoin
The I Matter Prof Blog:
How do we improve the educational and mental health outcomes of our children?
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