Children’s Mental Health Week
It was Children’s Mental Health Week last month, and the theme this year is Growing Together. All children (and adults) are being encouraged to consider how they have grown and how they can help others to grow.
It’s been a testing time over the last couple of years, and it’s difficult to measure the impact this may have had on a child’s mental health.
Some children will have welcomed and even enjoyed the time off school, while others will have found it tough going – with the coronavirus outbreak keeping them at home and away from friends.
The changes in day-to-day living and coming to terms with other family issues (such as a change in job) isn’t always an easy thing to deal with, and can impact the whole family.
So, what can we be doing to ensure our mental health, and more importantly, our children’s mental health, remains in as good a shape as possible? Here’s a few pointers you can implement if you haven’t done so already.
Opening up and discussing mental health with your child honestly, helps to reduce any fear or confusion they may be feeling around the subject, and will help them understand your actions and behaviour.
Explain how mental health impacts daily living for everyone, and that if something worries them, they can talk about. If they do talk about any concerns they have, answer honestly, and if you think your child doesn’t feel comfortable sharing things with you, identify another family member or teacher that may be able to help.
Monitoring mental wellbeing
You can keep track of your child’s mental wellbeing in several ways. Firstly, see if you notice any changes in behaviour, like not wanting to participate in activities or becoming withdrawn. Ask them how they are feeling and get them to grade between 1-10. Ask them what can be done to make them feel 10/10.
You can also ask people you trust to keep an eye on your child. Close family and friends will be able to let you know if they’ve noticed any changes in behaviour.
If it gets to the point where you’re really concerned about your child’s mental health, you could take them to see your GP.
Ensure caring responsibilities are manageable
Your child could have responsibilities around the house, and because of this, are classified as a young carer. This may mean they look after the household cleaning, shopping or money.
If this is the case, try to keep an eye on how they are getting on with the additional responsibility, and that it isn’t having a negative impact on them .
One suggestion is to encourage “rest time” where your child simply does nothing. Or, make sure that they have activities planned that doesn’t involve looking after household chores.
Think about what they might need in their own lives
Making suggestions and asking children what they might want to do to make them happy, is one of the most satisfying parts of being a parent.
Find out what they are doing at school and what they enjoy the most. Encourage physical activity to ease anxiety and reduce any stress they may feel, and when it comes to school work, create a clear and quiet place for them to study.
Being mentally healthy during childhood means reaching developmental and emotional milestones, whilst also picking up healthy social skills and learning how to cope when there are problems. As adults, we can all help this process by nurturing our young people in the right way and setting the best day-to-day examples.