Supporting the mental health and well-being of refugee pupils through connection and continuity

Image: Pan Xiaozhen / Unsplash.com

The experience of war, sudden flight from familiar surroundings, and concern about relatives can have a negative impact on refugee children’s mental health and well-being. This will also affect their learning experience. It is therefore important for schools, in particular those currently welcoming a large number of refugees, to become ‘refugee-competent’.

‘Refugee-competent schools’ should be aware of refugees’ specific needs and equip staff with the appropriate competences and tools to support them. To avoid learning delay, psycho-social support can be integrated into the school’s educational practices. This support should also be embedded in a broader and cross-sector scheme to take into account all children’s needs, in collaboration with social and health services.

Several Erasmus+ and Horizon 2020 projects have been developing resources and interventions for this purpose. Schools and teachers can use these to welcome refugee children, to address their emotional needs (e.g., feeling safe, or coping with separation, loss, grief and trauma) and their social needs (e.g., having a sense of belonging, or communicating with others), and to cooperate with specialists.

Resources:

  • This School Education Gateway webinar illustrates how schools can play a crucial role in meeting the needs of distressed and traumatised children and how to strengthen their mental health and well-being. It shows which risk and protective factors are at stake in the migrant and refugee population, and how these factors can be addressed in the school setting. It also provides concrete advice on such things as the importance of arts, being in nature, using ‘everyday magic’ such as routines, and the role of peer support.
  • The European Toolkit for Schools is collecting a large variety of interventions and resources in different languages, including the projects RefugeesWellSchool and SHARMED: Shared Memories and Dialogue. Many more resources will be available in the coming days.