It might be hard for many parents to imagine, but even our littlest kiddos deal with mental health concerns. They get stressed, depressed, and anxious, so starting early and teaching our kids how to deal with their mental health is vital. Still, it’s not always something we focus on — probably because society at large often fails to validate the importance of mental healthcare in children. One former preschool teacher is out to change that, though. Mr. Hills is TikTok’s atxhills, and he’s coming in clutch with solid advice for both kids and parents on how to take care of their mental health.
He even put mental health at the forefront of his class time by offering days where his students could talk through their feelings and creating a “peace corner” where they could go to decompress. This teacher made — and continues to make, through his mental health advocacy on TikTok — a big difference in kids’ lives simply by spending a bit of time on their emotions instead of just their academics. How lovely is that?
What Mr. Hills Is Doing Right
We know that teaching is a tough profession. You’re in charge of shaping countless minds over the course of your teaching tenure. It’s not always easy to think of or prioritize everything you need to, especially for older-grade teachers who have to worry about preparing for standardized testing. However, in just this one short video, Mr. Hills shares some amazing insight into what his classroom was like and how he chose to put mental health first.
1. “Talk About It” Thursdays
In Hills’ pre-k classroom, Thursdays were a day of reflection. “It allowed kids to come up there for about 90 seconds to express themselves,” he says in the video. It’s easy to imagine that could be pretty chaotic. Gavin might want to share his feelings about his dad not living at home anymore, while Avery just wants to talk about how she’s sad it’s been too rainy to have outdoor playtime. Here’s the thing: Both of those are valid feelings, even if one feels a lot heavier or more pressing than the other.
Our kids need to be able to freely express themselves, to tell us and each other what’s bothering or worrying them, without fear of being brushed off. We’re certain Thursdays were a favorite day in Hills’ classroom — and this same idea could be a great way to get kids to open up more at home, too.
2. The Peace Corner
When Hills was a preschool teacher, he designated an area of the classroom as the “peace corner.” It’s a space where, he explains, “if they were frustrated or angry, they could go sit, calm themselves down, meditate, listen to music. I have books over there for them to look at.”
A peace corner sounds very similar to what many gentle parents use as a “time in” corner or what parents of sensory kids call “calming corners.” It’s just a quiet corner where a child can go to take a step away from the chaos of the classroom. Overstimulated or otherwise upset kids can use the peace corner to find calm, think (or not think), or simply spend some time alone. It probably also worked as a great signal to Hills that one of his students might need some time to talk to him later.
3. “It’s OK to Walk Away”
Hills gives this advice to both his students and his adult followers. “It’s OK to walk away. If something is not suiting you, it’s not helping your well-being, your mental health — it’s OK to walk away,” he says in the video. While that could easily be geared towards his students, he’s quick to explain that it also works for grown-ups. “If that job is not doing it for you, it’s OK to walk away. If your child is throwing a tantrum, it’s OK to walk away and get yourself together. Hey, if you’ve got PTO, take that PTO. Take that trip. Take a bubble bath. Go do that yoga. Whatever it is that brings you peace, do it.”
Phew. Of course, we’ve heard this before, and it’s easier said than done. But it shouldn’t be, right? And perhaps the reason it’s so hard for adults to take that advice is because it’s not the advice we were given as kids. Maybe, just maybe, giving that same advice to this new generation will help them grow into adults who know… it’s OK to walk away.
The Top Teachable Moment
Lots of pearls to pick from here, but the biggest takeaway from Hills’ TikTok is that mental health is vital — and that’s a lesson we should be teaching our children early. As Hills says, “We only have one life and one mind, so we’ve got to take care of them both.”
Whether you need laughs or wisdom, Hills TikTok offers it all — it’s full of wildly relatable content for both teachers and parents. 10/10 would sit through his classes every day.