There is a growing body of evidence around the ways in which a positive mindset can impact our social and emotional wellbeing. This extends to the way we raise our kids. As parents we can harness and optimise our children’s success and achievement at school through the environment we create at home.
As parents, adults and educators, we know that there is a link between these factors. We know and accept too, that if we wish to set our children up for success, we need to ensure that the search for positive influences begins at home.
Social and emotional welfare, a positive mindset, and mental and physical health are all indicators of overall wellbeing.
Dr Corey Keyes suggests there are three key external factors required for our mental wellbeing to flourish.
- Warm and trusting relationships
- A degree of self-determination
- A desire to shape our own environment
Similarly, a useful mental health and wellbeing online resource for parents and students states that being mentally healthy is about overall wellbeing, influenced by similar factors:
- Enjoyment of life
- Having the ability to bounce back
- Being able to set and achieve goals
- Having the capability to build and maintain relationships
With all these in mind, schools and home can complement each other in fostering active and engaged learners who demonstrate a positive disposition, not only towards their own learning but also in their relationships with others.
In pursuit of this, a degree of self-determination and self-efficacy are essential in promoting wellbeing. Young people need to feel good about themselves, develop confidence in their own abilities, and understand, with an equal degree of confidence, that if they work hard they can achieve success. Adults in their life – be it parent or educator – can assist by setting up structures and routines which will facilitate this and promote their ultimate success.
The doyen of wellbeing, Martin Seligman, author of Authentic Happiness and Flourish, a New Understanding of Happiness maintains a not-too-dissimilar scaffold of five pillars of happiness, equally relevant to the home. These include:
- Positive feelings and attitudes
- Meaning and Purpose
- Achievement and Attainment
With this in mind, there is no doubt that a positive home environment can impact school achievement for young people. A 2016 review found a positive relationship between emotional and psychological wellbeing and academic achievement. The report concluded that students with higher levels of psychological and emotional wellbeing also displayed an increased level of academic achievement.
The report also showed that factors such as engagement, self-esteem and relationships with peers were significant in the relationship between wellbeing and academic achievement. What’s more, developmental learned behaviours like positive relationships, collaboration and trust are just as important as routines, structure and space.
How to create a genuinely positive learning environment
Parents of teenagers in particular know only too well that our young charges tend to baulk at anything that’s contrived, so it’s essential to ensure that the home environment you create, and your attempt at positivity, are authentic. Genuine positive relationships with adults, siblings and peers based on mutual trust are the best starting point.
Young people also need their space. They not only need a physical space which is conducive to learning and study, they also need the structures and routines around them to be a shared commitment, one they feel they have contributed to, as opposed to an imposed or enforced environment.
Having a clear study pattern, governed by an adaptable timetable, which maps out their afterschool and weekend routine is important. Start with the non-negotiables — training schedules for extracurriculars, travel time, family and dinner time and social media time. Once this is done, slot in the study times. For young people, working in 30-minute blocks — 25 minutes on, five minutes off — is ideal because it’s achievable. Creating time and space for their social media is also important as a bargaining chip when you eventually ask them to turn it off.
It’s unrealistic to assume that any of us can concentrate for long periods of time without a break. In many fields of endeavour which require long periods of concentration, a reliable strategy is to break it up into manageable chunks. Long stints of concentration rely on knowing how and when to clear your mind and learning to switch on and then off. Study works in much the same way.