Supporting children’s mental health

This week is Children’s Mental Health Week and we thought we’d share some of our thoughts with you. When we talk about being healthy, the first thing that comes to mind is our physical health, do we exercise enough? Do we drink enough water? Do we have a nutritious and well balanced diet? But what about our mental well being? When thinking about mental health we automatically paint a picture of an adult, why? What about our children? Can children suffer from such a thing too? In actual fact they can, it’s just not spoken about enough. The causes of this can vary from bullying to bereavement and comes in many different forms of depression, eating disorders and addictive disorders. One in ten children will suffer from some type of mental health before they turn 16. Did you know children as young as 5 can suffer with mental health? Unlike most adults, children are unable to express their thoughts and feelings, this is why it is important that as a parent/carer you know how to support them. We have put together a guide that will enable you to support your child with their mental health as well as help you promote positive environments that will allow your child to strive and manage their condition.

Talking/Effective communication

Take time out to speak to your child. Encourage light conversation at first, you don’t have to speak about mental health. This will enable you to gain your child’s trust. By gaining your child’s trust and giving them your time and attention, new doors in conversation will slowly but surely begin to open. Remind your child that you are there for them and that there isn’t anything too small or too silly that they can’t discuss with you.

Patience is key

Having patience will most certainly be your biggest battle. We all know what it’s like when our children don’t want to discuss something with us, it can be become frustrating and feelings of helplessness start eating away at you. You must, and we can’t stress this enough HOLD YOUR OWN! They may not want to speak today or tomorrow but with plenty of time, encouragement and light conversation you may notice that they start to reveal more to you piece by piece. You must have an equal balance of patience and persistence. By persistency, we mean don’t give up, ever, talking openly about mental health can really take time, especially for a child who can’t piece together their own feelings and emotions yet.

Being there

One to one time is essential if you want to support your child in the right way, whether it means spending a day doing their favourite thing or putting thirty minutes aside each evening to discuss your day together. You must remember quality time is for you and your child so turn your phones off, leave those emails and enjoy each other’s company.

Don’t jump to conclusions

You must remember that as a child is growing, they are also learning more about themselves, about their emotions and feelings. Often or not, changes in routine and new life events can cause your child’s behaviour to become different. This isn’t anything to worry about and with the right support from you and other family members things should start to improve.

Looking after you

As a parent you must be a role model for your child. Take a look at yourself, do you have a positive impact on your family? Are you in the right position to support your child? Do you need supporting? What about your emotions, how do you cope with these? Most behavioural cues are learned behaviours picked up by children that don’t know anything else. What we mean is does your child express their anger by shouting and bawling, do you express your anger through shouting and bawling?

Get help

If you feel your child does have a mental health condition, you should seek medical advice. Being able to discuss issues with your child is great but there is only so much support you can provide from inside the home. Visit your GP and inform them of your concerns, they will be able to give you some advice on the best steps to take and may be able to put you in touch with someone who can offer specialised one to one sessions or even therapy. There are also lots of charities that can offer you free advice and support like Mind and Young Minds. Helplines are great, you will be able to speak to a specialist directly.