Children’s Mental Health Week
7th – 13th February marks Children’s Mental Health Week and this year we are looking at Growing Together. Our team have put together a wealth of information to help parents, carers and teachers support the day to day wellbeing of children and teenagers and tips for communicating with young people about their feelings to support their emotional growth.
Supporting younger children
Tips for monitoring your child’s Wellbeing
- Start using a simple way to check in with your child about their emotional state, e.g.: ‘On a scale of 1–10 how relaxed are you feeling? If 1 is really stressed, and 10 is the most relaxed you’ve ever been. What is one thing that will bring that score closer to 10?’”
- Be aware of any changes in their behaviour, such as becoming quiet and withdrawn if they are usually more talkative.
- Notice if your child doesn’t want to participate in activities that they usually enjoy.
- Children don’t always use their words to talk about their feelings – look at their play/ other behaviours as they will often act out their emotions.
- Pay attention when children become angry or aggressive; try to acknowledge their feelings and set boundaries without becoming angry back.
- Ask people you trust to also keep an eye on your child’s wellbeing; friends and family members may be able to notice things you won’t.
- You don’t seem your usual self today. Would you like to talk about anything?
- You seem sad/ worried today. Do you want to have a chat about it
- Is there anything I can do to help how you are feeling?
- You said something interesting before about how you felt when… How do you feel about it now?
- I can see you are stressed/angry right now but I would really like to talk this through with you later.
Talking to your child about News and World Affairs
In this digital age it is likely children will find out about upsetting news events, that they may find traumatic.
- Do not try to stop all exposure to news
- Be open and honest about what is happening, keeping in mind what is age appropriate
- Let them know it is normal to be a bit worried and identify your feelings with theirs if applicable
- Encourage them to ask questions if they are unsure about anything
- Reassure them that you will do everything you can to keep them safe
Tips for responding to an anxious child
- LISTEN – pay full attention to your child and make eye contact with them. Have open and relaxed body language.
- OBSERVE – “I can see you are very worried”
- BREATHE – give them time to reconnect their thinking brain. “Let’s use slow breaths to calm down”
- TOGETHER – create a sense of collaboration and safety (without overly reassuring them) – “You are not alone with this”
- EMPOWER – Give your child support to manage this on their own “You’ve got this, I know you are doing your best”
- POSITIVES – Give your child hope “This feeling feels uncomfortable, but it will go away soon”
- PRAISE – Thank them for sharing their feelings with you. “I know it’s hard to talk about our feelings, so thank you for telling me”
Techniques to help an anxious child
- Count backwards from 100 in threes e.g. 100….97….94….91….88…
- Pick a word you can see and make anagrams
- Describe something you can see in lots of detail e.g. its colour, shape, texture, function…
- Spell the names of your family or friends backwards
- Category game – name as many items as possible from certain categories eg. Films, songs, vegetables, colours, farm animals etc…
- Breathing exercises to slow down and regulate their breathing – this will help with any uncomfortable physical feelings.
Supporting older children and teenagers
Supporting your teenager’s wellbeing day-to-day:
- Talk to them about what they are enjoying at school and which aspects they are finding harder.
- Create a quiet and tidy place at home where they can do homework/other projects.
- Help them take part in activities they enjoy – plan regular activities with them.
- Respect their privacy by letting them have their own space.
- Encourage physical exercise, to let off steam and reduce anxiety or worry.
- Model putting down your phones during family time (e.g. mealtimes) and before be
Talking to your teenager about mental health
- Do not judge– show respect and be curious
- Ask open questions – “How have you been feeling lately? What happened?” as you are more likely to get an honest response
- Try not to assume you know what’s wrong – just state what you have noticed has changed in a non-judgemental way “I can see you are quite down lately, is there anything you want to talk about?”
- Be clear you want to help them – not punish/ridicule.
- Be honest about your own mental health and take responsibility for your actions as a parent – being a role model to reduce stigma is crucial. But also be aware of over-sharing
- Take the pressure off – have conversations without lots of eye contact to make it easier for your teen to open up e.g. when driving them somewhere/walking the dog/ while watching TV
- Help your teenager think for themselves – discuss potential consequences of any harmful actions they may be doing
- Boost their self-esteem – remind them of what they’re good at and what you like about them.
- Signpost them to websites/ further information/support to look at themselves – empowering and allows them to take control and responsibility for their own mental health.
- Try not to react to angry outbursts – don’t take it personally
- Make sure you share anything you are very concerned about with their school/GP and other services if necessary – ask them what they want to be shared.
If you feel your child needs support with their mental health our Wellbeing and Resilience Mental Health Service may be able to help. If you have any questions about this or other services please call 01206 764600 or email email@example.com.