Mental Health, What It Is and What It Isn’t
Mental Health, What It Is and What It Isn’t
You may know this already but here is a reminder…. a few tips on how children can thrive when they have a toolkit for building mental resilience.
|Important||A sign of weakness|
|Something that everyone has||Shameful|
|Probably linked to physical health||All in your mind|
|Worth making time for||Something to think about when it feels broken|
|Part of being human||Something you decide to have|
|Positive and negative||Feeling good or bad all the time|
|Changeable||Something you can snap out of|
With this in mind, how can we bring this topic up with children to let them know that it’s ok to talk about it? We can help children to recognise that we all respond to experiences with our emotions, feelings, thoughts and behaviours. It’s important that they understand how there can be changes in their bodies which are connected to their feelings and thoughts – for example, in PE, our heart beats very quickly after we have been running, the same is true when we are nervous or scared. By helping children with these concepts and getting them to think about how feelings and thoughts are linked to behaviour, we can then explain how a combination of all these elements affects our mental health.
As parents, teachers and secret parents, we can calmly and confidently open up conversations to encourage children to discuss, to learn and realise that mental health is something we all have and that we should be aware of it and learn skills to look after it. There might be days when we feel sad or we struggle and other days when we feel confident and calm. More importantly, we can have a conversation about asking for help when we need support. If children are encouraged to talk openly to adults, whether it be at home or at school, about their worries and difficulties, they will feel a sense of belonging and therefore, be able to identify feelings, thoughts and emotions.
I also know from working in a school that all staff are encouraged and supported to be alert, vigilant, cautious and curious about children’s behaviour, their body language, their interaction with other pupils, what they say, what they draw and what they do in school. I’m sure as parents we do the same.
So, how can we start conversations with children?
Find an appropriate time and relaxed place to have the conversation.
• Get down to their level, so they know they have your full attention
• Check with your child if it will help if they spoke to a friend. Sometimes, they may prefer to speak to a friend first
• Take what they’re saying seriously. Don’t over-react but don’t try to minimise or dismiss what they are saying. Ask open questions to encourage them to talk. Use Who? What? Where? When? How?
• Listen carefully, be patient and understanding. Let them speak, respond by using ‘uh huh, oh?! I see, hmmm’
• Check your body language – so that they know you are focusing on them. Children feel your energy
• Be calm and acknowledge their feelings. Try not to interrupt them
• With young children, drawing, modelling or playing with toys while the conversation is progressing can be helpful.
• Offer empathy and understanding rather than solutions (telling them what to do). When a child receives empathy they begin to develop trust.
• Remember we are all different and children will respond in their own unique way depending on their experiences. One child may understand, another may get defensive
• Remember that children with SEND (special educational needs & disability) may struggle even more to articulate their feelings and thoughts and may need extra support. They may be a visual learner, you may have to watch a video or play a game to get them to express themselves.
If talking is not what your child wants to do, start something a bit more fun and meaningful…..a family gratitude jar. This is so beneficial (check out my Practising and Expressing Gratitude Video on my Facebook page). All it takes is to write down on a small piece of paper something you are grateful for each day. Write as many as you want. Pop it into the gratitude jar. You will notice how much happier everyone will be in a short space of time. It is known to improve self esteem, enhance empathy and reduce aggression. Some people even sleep better. Basically, having an ATITUDE FOR GRATITUDE is great for Mental Health. OR Something else that is really helpful is to do a Language of Love Quiz. This will help you learn what matters more to your child when it comes to love. Whether they prefer: Words of Affirmation, acts of service, quality time, receiving gifts, physical touch, here are some examples of things you probably already do but, knowing what love means to your child will really help:
Words of Affirmation
I am so proud of you
You are so special to me
You are so kind
You are such a good friend
I appreciate your help
Acts of Service
Helping them with their homework
Leaving a nice note
Giving them treat
Letting them choose what to watch
With you one on one
As a family
By Candy Fung
Kids Life Coach
Nurturing Minds kids Life Studio
#MENTALHEALTHAWARENESS #CHILDREN #THOUGHTS #FEELINGS
#PHYSICALHEALTH #BEHAVIOUR #LOVE LANGUAGE