“No-one can see our thoughts, and that’s why we need to talk about them.” Out of the mouths of babes. This is how an eight-year-old student at the Oliver Goldsmith Primary School in London articulated the need for communication techniques, in a new class called Cues-Ed. Cues-Ed, taught by clinical psychologist Dr. Anna Redfern and her partner Dr. Debbie Plant, is about teaching young children how to be aware of their own mental processes and health.
Childhood mental health is a growing concern in schools. According to a survey of schools by the Association of School and College Leaders, two-thirds of teachers said that they wanted mental health services for students. What’s more is that over seventy-five-percent of teachers reported they had seen evidence of self-harm or suicidal thoughts in their classrooms.
Dr. Redfern and Dr. Plant are specifically focusing on children ages eight and nine. Using positive language and fun workbooks, their students learn about telling the difference between helpful and unhelpful thoughts, and about managing their moods as well as seeking help when they can’t.
One exercise, for example, involves catching little fluttering “thoughts” blown around the room (strips of paper with short phrases). This is the part where thoughts cross your mind, and the class acknowledges that what thoughts come is under very little control. But then the students sort them, identifying which ones are useful to them and which are harmful, and symbolically throw the useless ones away.
The class is not about any sort of mental health diagnoses. But it does teach the students to be mindful of their own thought patterns and emotional weather, which better prepares them to understand both their own internal workings and those of the people around them.
Currently, Dr. Redfern’s Cues-Ed program is only available in South London. A round of her courses costs nearly 4000 pounds, and has to be funded by the schools themselves, but she would love to see the program extended nationally.