Taoiseach: Teach kids it’s normal to be unhappy sometimes

Taoiseach Enda Kenny says children should be taught to recognise it is “normal” not to be happy all the time.
Taoiseach: Teach kids it’s normal to be unhappy sometimes

It was normal to feel sad, or lonely, or a bit down, often for no appreciable reason, said Mr Kenny.

“As parents or teachers we cannot make our children happy. Rather what we can and must do is give them the skills that will make them reflective, thoughtful, questioning, observant and resilient,” he said.

Mr Kenny was speaking at a conference in Dublin on how schools are facing huge challenges in the area of emotional wellbeing organised by the Irish Primary Principals’ Network (IPPN).

“We must do our best to create the best and safest place for our children in our schools — a space that allows them to be who they are — and to be valued for it,” Mr Kenny told over 500 people who attended the conference.

It was vital that children who were feeling fragile knew that they were not the sum of their thoughts, their feelings.

And it was crucial that parents, educators and the Government gave them the skills so that were not overwhelmed by their thoughts and feelings.

Mr Kenny said he understood that the Department of Education and Skills and the National Office for Suicide Prevention were actively discussing how best to provide supports to teachers and schools in the promotion of wellbeing for the whole community.

While the department had introduced important anti-bullying initiatives and an internet safety strategy for schools he believed more would have to be done to keep children safe and well.

The Ombudsman for Children, Dr Niall Muldoon, said every child should leave school with self-confidence.

However, he did not believe teachers needed extra resources in helping children to feel safe to express their anxieties and develop an emotional resilience to meet the challenges they will face throughout life.

While he would welcome more resources for teachers they were already interacting with children and they should ask themselves if they could do one more thing to help their personal growth.

IPPN chief executive Pat Goff said there was something inherently wrong when a child in a primary school was clinically depressed or presenting with serious emotional or behavioural difficulties.

“To me this should not be norm and yet we are now accepting this as normal,” he said.

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