Cost of living crisis: three ways schools can support children and parents
Recent studies found the cost of living crisis may push another 500,000 children into poverty, increasing the total number to almost 4.5 million.
While schools and teachers aren’t directly responsible for solving poverty, student wellbeing must be a priority.
By taking steps, schools can help those most affected; we’ve examined how poverty can impact vulnerable children, signs to look out for and the do’s & don’ts for schools and teachers in the face of the cost of living crisis.
How does poverty affect children?
Loneliness, low self-esteem and psychological distress – all potential impacts of students facing poverty.
According to BBC’s Children in Need, children from the lowest 20% income households are four times more likely to suffer from severe mental health issues than those from the top 20% earning households.
Additionally, school outcomes and behavioural/social development can be significantly impacted, as those children growing up in poverty are likely to suffer from impaired cognitive development.
The cycle of poverty needs breaking! To do so, schools must recognise the warning signs and support those vulnerable in any way they can.
Customer story: Reversing the impact of COVID by building relationships with parentsRead here
How teachers and schools can support vulnerable children during the cost of living crisis
Undoubtedly, schools and teachers have some of the greatest influence on children and their day-to-day.
To make the most out of the support you offer, here are three tips for helping vulnerable children throughout the cost of living crisis:
1) Mitigate and spread costs where possible
To help low-income families, check current expenses and see whether they can be mitigated or postponed to a later date.
For example, space out events/school trips, organise uniform swaps to ease financial burdens and review your scheduled charity events as fundraising in the current climate may no longer be possible for those most affected.
Also, if you haven’t already, apply to provide a breakfast club under the Government’s national scheme, ensuring a nutritious breakfast is available to all pupils – it’s a great way for students to socialise too!
2) Educate and provide information
Do parents have access to financial information? Are they aware of their entitlements when using their National Insurance number?
Schools and teachers can help low-income families by educating them on financial matters and signposting important websites and relevant support services.
When doing so, make sure to post information on boards, websites, emails and notes to ensure the information reaches everyone, creating equal opportunities for all families.
3) Empower children to do their part
Jessica Middleton, Insight Manager at BBC’s Children in Need, says, “children are aware of what is going on around them. Even if parents don’t talk to them about the cost of living crisis, they hear about it from friends or in the media, and they worry.”
To relieve some of the pressure on children’s minds, teachers, parents and schools should include children in the conversation about the cost of living crisis.
When speaking to children about the current climate, make sure to lead with questions, create a comfortable environment for them to share their worries and ensure the conversation is age-appropriate.
You can share feasible tips with them on how to reduce costs through saving energy in the school/home and explain to them why the current economic situation is the way it is.
Depending on age, these actions may look different; younger students may understand better through tangible examples and games, whereas older students may have a good understanding of the situation and are searching for more specific tips.
Involving pupils in the conversation empowers them to help.
Sarah Cullinane, Senior Assistant Psychologist at Imagine Health, says, “the more resilient we make children in the face of adversity, the better they will be able to cope in the future.”
Ensuring pupils feel safe and supported
Remember, throughout all this, children should still feel safe at all times.
Make sure to not put pressure on them or exaggerate the situation, as this could lead to psychological distress and increased worry.
Ultimately, the mental wellbeing of children is vital, especially during times like these.
For further insights into this topic, watch our recent webinar with Children in Need and Imagine Health here.
To become a mental health advocate and learn how to recognise the signs of mental health issues and support those struggling, download our new mental health guide here.
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