PARENTS gained a clearer insight into the workings of their children’s brains under an initiative designed to help them support learning.

Hormones, growth spurts and the influence of digital devices were among the topics covered for parents of pupils at Barnard Castle School and Preparatory School who attended the two-hour session led by senior and prep school Pastoral Deputy Heads Peter Lavery and Rebecca Robertson.

Mr Lavery said: “The aim is to promote mental fitness and wellbeing at Barney, to strengthen children’s capacity to grow and develop, to be able to overcome difficulties and challenges and to make the most of their abilities and opportunities.

“We want them to come into class and concentrate for 40 minutes free from any worries, as well as giving them the tools to deal with stress. Just like physical health, they need to have good mental health and we promote this through PSHE, assemblies, a varied co-curricular programme and by using visiting speakers.”

Parents heard that children’s moods went up and down on a daily basis, but anything prolonged might need further attention and support.

“Good mental health should see them have friends, be caring, understand right from wrong, be able to problem-solve and overcome setbacks,” he said.

“But they must also be allowed to fail because this is how they learn.”

He said the school works to promote youngsters' self-esteem, make them more resilient, give them problem-solving skills, maintain good physical health, experience success and achievement, plan and avoid stressful situations. Set against this are community factors such as socio-economic issues, family breakdown and deviant peer influences.

Mr Lavery said children were hardwired to react and behave in a certain way until they are about 25 when frontal lobe development helps control impulses and rationalise. And he offered advice on the impact of social media and digital devices and how to manage their use.

Mrs Roberston said the work started as soon as children attended Prep School and they were taught to be kind, polite, smart, organised and respectful.

Mr Lavery added: “Communication is key. Choose your words carefully – criticism will lead to shutdown – wise up to young people’s issues and talk to them about them. Actively listen and let them speak. Guide rather than lecture, use humour where appropriate and avoid confrontation which escalates tension.”