It’s Mental Health Awareness week. This year the theme is “Relationships”.
For a long time, we’ve been advocates of “Relationships” education – emphasising the “relationships” aspect of “sex and relationships education” by suggesting a reversal of the order of the acronym SRE to RSE.
“Our education should be focused far more on relationships – the management of relationships, the development of relationships, the variety of relationships – than on sex itself.
We all need to develop and continue to pay heed to the important relationships in our lives. Relationships don’t grow, change or deteriorate by themselves. Whatever the relationship is, it needs attention and it needs work. It needs compassion, consideration, thoughtfulness, kindness, honesty, trust and empathy. No relationship, be it a parent to child, a lover to lover, a sister to brother, a platonic friend to friend can work effectively without these key values.
If we considered and prioritised the development of these then perhaps relationships wouldn’t break down so frequently with such a detrimental effect on those involved.”
It’s three years since we wrote these words and there’s still no new legislation regarding the statutory status of PSHE and RSE, despite Nicky Morgan saying this.
“Sex education is an important element of the programme. But it’s just one part of it. In fact, proper PSHE should be much broader and should offer young people what I like to think of as a ‘curriculum for life’. . . . . . . A good PSHE education should cover all of the skills and knowledge young people need to manage their lives, stay safe, make the right decisions, and thrive as individuals and members of modern society.”
Our wellbeing is often based on our relationships with others. We all have different roles in life – son, mother, brother, partner, friend, colleague – and all of these roles and responsibilities have to be managed and looked after in order that we live life well.
Yet, all too frequently, we overlook one of the most important relationships in life – the one we have with ourselves.
We can’t be a good son or mother or partner etc. unless we have knowledge and understanding of ourselves – our passions, our beliefs, our likes and dislikes, our own skills and attributes, our feelings and how we express them.
Our relationship with ourselves is often the most complicated relationship of all and if we don’t give children the opportunity to explore who they are, then how can we expect them to interact reflectively and responsibly with other people?
Before we consider how to manage our relationships with others, perhaps we ought to look at our relationship with ourselves, which is why one aspect of our multiple intelligences approach to learning concentrates on personal intelligence – the knowledge we have about ourselves, finding our element (in work and leisure, and preferably in both simultaneously), understanding our flaws as well as our positive qualities.
In a time when personalised learning can seem all but forgotten, maybe the focus on relationships – as promoted through this Mental Health Awareness week – should afford some time to allow children to think about their relationship with themselves. They should be given opportunities to reflect on what they like to do and what they dislike, what they’re good at and what they find more challenging, how they express their feelings and why they feel the way they do.
In an ideal world, their introspection could then be developed into a personalised form of learning – in conjunction with developing their social intelligence (their empathy and how they interact with others) through a planned programme of work for PSHE, inclusive of relationships education.
Our children deserve the right to relationships and sex education. It’s their entitlement to be given opportunities to develop “the skills and knowledge young people need to manage their lives, stay safe, make the right decisions, and thrive as individuals and members of modern society”.
It’s up to the person who made this statement, the Secretary of State for Education, to make this happen through legislation but until that day comes, it’s up to us as individuals, as parents, carers and teachers to enable children and young people to know themselves and to be able to express their hopes and fears.
At a time when the state of our children’s wellbeing is miserably poor, this has to be an educational priority.
Knowing yourself is at the heart of being mentally well.
For further reading on Mental Health, Children and Young People:
For more on Mental Health Awareness week.