— SANE (@CharitySANE) February 4, 2019
It seems such a sad topic to write about, but according to SANE, it’s estimated that 1 in 8 children aged 5 to 19 has a mental disorder. And 200 young people will commit suicide.
So much so, there is an awareness campaign called Children’s Mental Health Week.
Across social media individuals, schools, organisations and health providers shared ideas on how to help young people manage their mental health.
Here’s a round up of some ideas. The first one comes from me!
Step away from the smartphone!
I’ve seen countless parents / carers pushing buggies along the pavement or walking with young children while the adult is engrossed in their a mobile phone. I can’t help thinking we need more Face Time and less, erm, FaceTime.
It’s been shown that children whose parents were addicted to their phones were significantly more likely to have behaviour problems. And there are reports suggesting one third of children starting school are lacking social skills, not toilet trained or unable to hold a conversation – due to their parent’s immersion in smartphones.
I have been guilty of looking at my phone whilst talking to my child, but I’m pleased to say this is the exception rather than the rule. Perhaps it’s because it is a bugbear of mine when friends would rather get a dopamine hit from their handset than engage in conversation with me. This action gives the message I’m not important, and I don’t want that being extended to my child.
So, to give your child the message they are important to you and their experiences and feelings matter, spend time engaging with them, rather than your virtual world.
The power of breathing
Just like adults, children can tense their bodies and hold their breath when feeling stressed or anxious. And just like adults, children can benefit from deep breathing and positive visualisations. The NHS say “Practice simple relaxation techniques with your child, such as taking three deep, slow breaths, breathing in for a count of three and out for three”. Moodcafe have a couple of free downloads for you to do with your child to help them relax and visualise a calming, safe space.
This pdf from The Week Junior is perfect for helping you talk about anxiety with your children. You’ll find helpful explainers, real-life experiences and tips to help stay calm. It’s a nice, colourful pdf to share with family members to get a conversation starting and to discuss taking action on things like exercise, good sleep habits and eating well – all of which can help reduce anxiety.
Asking non-threatening questions
It can be hard to get children to open up about their feelings. And it can be difficult to know which questions to ask. Especially if you’re feeling emotional yourself! This handy guide from Young Minds provides some excellent conversation starters.
Spend quality time together
According to a survey by Crayola, one in three children said their parents work too much and they want more quality time with their parents. Out of 2000 parents, 57 percent admitted that they struggled to find quality time with their children due to a hectic daily life. But quality time doesn’t have to mean lots of time. The clue is in the word ‘quality’. For me that suggests uninterrupted, focused time together with the focus on you being together. here is a list of activities you can do in 20 minutes.
It’s just a phase
Or is it? Writer Charlotte Underwood shared on Twitter, “Stop telling children “it’s just a phase”, or that “they’ll grow out of it”. Always take their feelings seriously. If we listen to our children now, we are giving them a better future.”
Let’s make #ChildrensMentalHealthWeek something we do 52 times a year.
Stop telling children “it’s just a phase”, or that “they’ll grow out of it”.
Always take their feelings seriously.
If we listen to our children now, we are giving them a better future.
— Charlotte Underwood (@CUnderwoodUK) February 4, 2019
Get more sleep
We’ve already discussed the importance of good sleep hygiene and it really can make a difference. According to research released for Children’s Mental Health Week 2019, children with less sleep are more likely to struggle with worries.