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Veronica Wallace is a childhood educator and blogging enthusiast. Some of her favourite articles can be found on the KIDTHINK website. KIDTHINK specializes in offering mental health services for children aged twelve and under, along with community outreach and training.
She has been kind enough to offer this exclusive blog for our website.
Teaching Kids about Respecting Differences
Everyone deserves respect; it’s a basic human right. A new curriculum will be introduced into UK schools this year that will aim to teach children about healthy, respectful relationships. It’s referred to as RSE, which covers Relationship Education, Relationships and Sex Education, and Health Education. It aims to teach equality and respect within the classroom. Starting this September 2020, it will be compulsory to teach the RSE curriculum in all state schools in England. For primary schools, only Relationship Education will be taught; Relationships and Sex Education is for secondary education. But not all teachers feel prepared to adjust to this change. In this post, we’ll cover some of the core components of the new curriculum, so that you can have a better understanding of what this new content involves:
This generation of children is growing up in a time unlike any other. They live their lives connected to the Internet at a young age. Social pressures surround them and complicate their academic and home lives. To promote well-being and better mental health, the United Kingdom is introducing a new curriculum that teaches kids how to treat themselves and their peers better. It seeks to reduce the stigmas that surround different mental health issues and identities. Primarily, it focuses on how children can build healthy relationships. This new curriculum aims to lay the foundation so that children will continue to build positive relationships into their adult years.
Schools that teach years one to six will begin addressing these issues by including the new statutory relationship curriculum. It’s designed to alleviate the different sources of tension that is being experienced nationwide. LGBTQ+ education is another topic that will be covered – in certain areas, this topic has been controversial, which makes it all the more important to address. Relationship Education will teach kids about LGBTQ+ or lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. It promotes gender equality and for children to respect their peers and choices, even if they do not hold the same beliefs. This component is especially important in religious areas where schools might not agree with same-sex marriage. The curriculum states that regardless of what the teacher believes, it should be encouraged that children respect the choices of others. Teaching this material in the classroom will promote compassion, which will help eliminate the stigma and stereotypes that are prevalent concerning LGBTQ+ individuals.
Healthy Relationships & Online Safety
The RSE curriculum states that students should be taught what constitutes a healthy relationship or friendship – the respect of boundaries, personal space, and good communication. Friendships should be built on loyalty, generosity, trust, support, and mutual respect. Pupils will be taught how to share resources, be kind and considerate, and speak truthfully. When students encounter differences among themselves and their peers, they will be taught to be respectful of them and more tolerant. They will learn that violence is never an appropriate response to conflict. Teachers will make the distinction between healthy and unhealthy relationships so that students can learn to recognize when they are being treated unfairly. This applies to online relationships as well, since most children use the Internet in primary school.
Children will be cautioned about online relationships, and how strangers can use the anonymity of the Internet to manipulate them. People online can make untruthful claims about who they are, and sometimes ask inappropriate questions. It’s dangerous to share information with those whom the child has never met, so students will be taught to set boundaries with those they communicate with online. Teachers will also explain to pupils that they can report any inappropriate behaviour. This generation will spend a lot of their time interacting with others online. As such, it’s important to encourage healthy and safe practices from a young age.
Recognising Unhealthy Relationships
For the safety of the students, the RSE curriculum also includes material about recognizing abuse. Children will be taught to set boundaries that match their comfort level. They will also learn to recognize when a relationship becomes unhealthy and disrespectful, whether that’s emotionally, physically, or sexually. Students will be taught that they have rights to their own bodies that others should never violate – and if they do, that they should report this abuse to the school or a family member. Teachers will emphasize that students can always seek advice if they suspect something is wrong in a relationship. RSE includes content about why it is never the fault of the child if they are abused, and they will also be taught that victim-blaming is never appropriate. Part of building healthy and respectful relationships is teaching children to recognize when they are being treated unfairly or abusively, and how to seek support in those situations.
The focus of the RSE curriculum is on building respectful and healthy relationships, whether that’s among friends, family, or online. It addresses the challenges that children of this generation are facing. The fundamentals of the new content aim to address these concerns by giving pupils the ability to self-care and seek support when needed. With these concepts, children will feel empowered to grow into successful and optimistic adults. It will give them the tools to handle adversity and recover from setbacks. Students will learn how to maintain healthy and respectful relationships with their peers. Finally, it also aims to teach them how to persevere even when the end goal may be distant.
Physical & Mental Health Education
Another component is Health Education, which includes material about puberty. This aspect is included so that children learn about how their bodies will change before it happens. Teaching it beforehand will hopefully eliminate confusion and potential self-esteem issues. For girls, experiencing menstruation before learning about it can be a stressful experience. That’s why the new curriculum seeks to educate children early; this will ensure that they’re prepared for the changes that their bodies will go through. When children learn about their anatomy, they can recognize if someone touches them inappropriately. This will allow them to identify any abuse and accurately report it to a trusted source.
The physical health component is about teaching children to take care of their bodies so that they feel their best. It also includes techniques regarding self-care, first aid, and personal hygiene. This sets them up to enjoy well-being for their whole lives. Students will learn the benefits of proper sleep, a healthy diet, and regular exercise. One of the most important relationships that a child has is the relationship with themselves; by furthering their physical education, they will learn to nurture that relationship so that they can always feel their best.
Well-being is a two-way street involving physical and mental health. It can’t be attained if one of the two is lacking. People sometimes forget that among our other needs, social contact is important for mental health. Children will be taught that healthy relationships with others will improve their quality of life. Being involved in the community, through hobbies, interests, the arts, or organized sports clubs, can help children meet their social needs. Teachers will also discuss the adverse effects of certain social outlets like excessive online gaming or social media use. By teaching children the importance of being social, schools can discuss difficult topics like isolation, depression, and bullying. Kids will learn that these are prevalent experiences that are faced in life and that there are ways to work through them safely.
Stigma and Stereotyping
Part of the new curriculum aims to remove any stigma regarding children who come from different types of families. These include LGBTQ+ parents, single parents, grandparents, adoptive parents, and foster parents. It is aimed to promote tolerance and acceptance of all types of home situations. Respecting the different cultures and faiths of one another creates an environment of harmony and understanding. Children will be encouraged to look past their own belief systems and recognize that everyone deserves respect. When their friend’s families are different from their own, pupils learn that a loving family can be expressed in numerous ways, teaching them practices of acceptance and inclusion rather than exclusion. RSE involves respecting the relationships of all people.
The focus of this new curriculum is to teach children to understand kindness and respect. It will help kids create and maintain healthy relationships with their peers from different backgrounds. Even though some topics may make parents or students feel awkward, young people need to understand these sensitive issues. Mental health and emotional health are just as important as physical health; well-being is a comprehensive state.
We live in a diverse world. Children notice this from a young age, and without the teachings of RSE, they may be confused
about how to respond. Whether they experience stigma themselves or witness it among their peers, it’s essential to teach children the fundamentals of respectful and healthy relationships. They will also learn how to recognize when another person makes them uncomfortable, and how to seek help. Friendships have highs and lows, and when conflicts arise, pupils will learn how to handle them maturely. LGBTQ+ issues are discussed, and children will be taught about why stereotyping is harmful and unfair. They will also learn the importance of gaining permission before embracing a friend.
A way for schools to teach children important lessons is through the Beginner’s Guide to Life resource offered and of course all Emile resources feature wonderful characters that help KS1 children understand relationship concepts better.