Supporting the wellbeing of children during the cost-of-living crisis

Jan 6 / Lily Wilson
As we know all too well, the cost-of-living is increasing which is causing added stress to families, which is in turn impacting the children and young people that we work with. The Christmas break may well have been a difficult period for many children, with families struggling to afford the basics, having to cut back on heating, food, toiletries and even hygiene. These issues will inevitably impact on students as they return to schools and could lead to a rise in behavioural issues. So, what can we do as teaching staff to support our students? 

Being aware is possibly the most important step we can take to support the children with whom we work: knowing how poverty can impact on the development of children’s brains, their sleep patterns, their mental health and ultimately their behaviour means that we can prepare for these issues and plan how we can offer support to these children when they’re in school. Thinking about how your schools can offer support more generally (particularly in terms of breakfast clubs, school dinners and school uniforms) is a great thing to do, and an important topic to discuss during staff meetings, but we can also offer support through our classrooms, our curriculum and our behaviour management techniques.  

Classroom environment: 

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By creating a positive classroom environment, where children feel safe and comfortable can be really useful in supporting our students’ mental health. If they feel comfortable to talk to you, either one-to-one or during whole class discussions about their ideas, opinions and worries, then this gives them an important outlet for their emotions.

By having a set of clearly defined class rules, and implementing specific times within your day or week to have whole class discussions about feelings and wellbeing, you can create a culture of openness and kindness, where all students feel safe to share. It can also be a good idea to incorporate specific partner and group activities into your day which build trust among your students as this will further reinforce the feeling of safety and security in your students. Having a place where students can check in with their emotions can be a really great tool too, as well as having a sharing box, where students can write notes to you if they feel more comfortable writing than talking. It is important for these to give children the vocabulary they need to discuss their emotions and, for younger children, emoji cards can be a useful way to give them this.

Thinking about how you can incorporate more time for mindfulness and claiming spaces where children can take themselves to for a short, self-led time-out can further help to give students to skills that they need to be able to recognise, manage and communicate their emotions.  


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Studies have shown that the cost-of-living crisis has now overtaken climate change as the most common cause of concern amongst children and young people. Increasingly, children are worrying about their parents’ finances and whether they are able to support them and provide the essentials, such as food and heat. These anxieties can then manifest in their behaviour, which in turn can cause further anxiety if they find themselves having more behavioural issues than usual.

A great way to combat this is to take a look at your curriculum and see if you can find ways to incorporate discussions and understanding about the cost-of-living crisis, knowing that you have already created that safe and supportive classroom environment. By incorporating such discussions into your curriculum, you not only give your students the vocabulary and tools they need to be able to understand their own emotions, but you are also providing an outlet for them to share their worries and to see that they are not alone- that others in their class have similar concerns. There is often such a stigma around poverty, or just not being able to afford the same things that they used to be able to, so knowing that they are not alone could be really helpful.  

Behaviour management: 

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Knowing that the cost-of-living crisis is likely to increase anxieties which could then impact on behaviour, it’s important to think carefully about the strategies you use for behaviour management. Now, more than ever, it’s vital to think about the root causes of behavioural issues and to try to find out what the underlying cause is so that students can be supported to make better choices or be given advice and support for the issues that are worrying them.

A lack of food, sleep and security has a huge impact on mental health and ability to focus. Sometimes we do not know that our students are facing these issues, so it’s important to try and have a discussion with them as you may be able to them flag these issues to senior leadership or the safeguarding team so that the student’s family can receive advice and support for the struggles that they are facing.  

Wider school support: 

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We know that families are not the only ones who are suffering during this cost-of-living crisis and that schools are finding their budgets to be tighter than ever, however there are some cost-effective ways in which schools can provide further support to families at this time. There are a variety of breakfast club schemes, both from the government and from some private companies which can help schools to provide free breakfast clubs to all children.

This can be a real lifeline for many families as it not only ensures that children are getting that vital meal, but it also relieves some of their financial pressures whilst also making it easier for them to get to work themselves. School uniforms are also proving to be a huge problem for many families as they are struggling not only to afford them, but also to wash and maintain them. It can be a great idea to consider setting up a uniform swap-shop so that parents can have a cheap alternative to buying brand new uniforms. Allowing footwear such as (black) trainers can be helpful for families who struggle to pay for more than one set of shoes for their child or children.

It is also important to think about the clubs, after-school activities and school trips that are offered to students and how these can be provided in a cost-free way to families, where possible. Finally, many organisations are also encouraging schools to signpost the different types of support available to them, such as how to apply for Free School Meals, how to apply for different social security benefits, or how to access local food banks. The advice here is to communicate this information in as many ways as possible, for example via texts, emails and newsletters, so that it is more likely that the information is received by those who need it most.  

In high-stress times such as the Cost-of-Living crisis, children may require extra Safeguarding protection and support. All educators should complete an up-to-date Safeguarding course. Prospero Learning offers 2 online Safeguarding courses, take a look and enrol in one here.
Ultimately, we know that every school is doing the best job that they can, day-in and day-out to support the educational, social and emotional needs and wellbeing of their students. This is a tough time for everyone, and it is important to remember to look after yourselves even when you are thinking about how to support your students. For more ideas on how to support your own wellbeing, have a read of one of our earlier blogs, here or here, that have some great advice on this subject.   

For more from Prospero Teaching, head over to our website to register with us, check out our library of blogs, or find out about the CPD courses that we have coming up. As ever, the cost of our online and in-person courses is fully refundable (minus the booking fee) for attendees who register with Prospero Teaching.   

Find out about the CPD courses that we have coming up.