In recent years, society is becoming more and more aware of children’s mental health. In fact, 1 in 10 children under the age of 18 suffer from a mental health problem in the UK. Worryingly, 7 in 10 of the children with a diagnosed mental health condition haven’t received intervention early enough. This results in mental health declining whilst waiting for treatment that may be readily available for adults.
Emotional well-being is just as important as physical health in children. Not only does good mental health allow them to cope with life in general, but also gives them confidence in themselves as they transition into adulthood.
As parents, we all want what is best for our children. Focus, however, tends to focus on keeping our children physically healthy with a good diet and plenty of exercise. So, how do we support our children to ensure they stay mentally well?
There are so many things you can do to remind your child that you love them, regardless of their age. These actions don’t need to be expensive or extravagant, in fact, it’s often the smaller things that matter most. Some ideas might include:
- Waking them up with kisses and cuddles;
- Snuggle up and read them a story;
- Ask what their favourite part of their day was and show genuine interest in the answer;
- Sneak a little note into their lunchbox – “I’m so proud of you” is a great way to get them through a tricky day at school;
- Maintain eye contact and ignore distractions;
- Compliment them – “Wow! When did you get so amazing at your 9 times table?!”
- Proudly display their artwork or treasure a gift they’ve given you.
Although being loved unconditionally won’t necessarily stop mental health conditions from developing, you’ll remind your child that they have you on their team to fight the symptoms together.
Know The Signs
Mental illness comes hand in hand with some big feelings and emotions. Often, adults even struggle to process these feelings. When children are feeling overwhelmed with emotion, these feelings can be displayed through their behaviour.
Has your child’s behaviour drastically changed or do they seem more sad than usual? Think about whether there have been any changes in their life. Maybe they’ve moved classes or a grandparent has become poorly and your child is showing their emotions in the only way they know how. Once you know the signs of anxiety or another mental health condition, you’ll be able to intervene before your child reaches “boiling point”. Show them love and support to get them through.
Create A Positive Environment
The environment a child is brought up in can impact their mental health for the rest of their life. Make sure your environment is positive. Allow your child the opportunity to be a child and avoid involving them in any adult disagreements or worries; Support your child to do what they love and share their passion with them; Ensure that once your front door is closed, their home is their safe space where they are free from judgement or unrealistic expectations; Set boundaries and stick to them to ensure your child knows where they stand – Each child is different and the environment they require will vary but a positive home-life is a solid foundation for good mental health.
Ask For Help
Sometimes, having a family member’s support isn’t enough and a child will need outside support to help them through their mental illness. Your first port of call could be your child’s school, who will have specialists in child and adolescent mental health. Family GPs can also be a good place to begin asking for help. Your child may be offered talking therapies, and many find that talking through their feelings with an impartial professional can give them the opportunity to be honest, without fear of upsetting you. This intervention will also provide you with the support you need to keep being your child’s safe place.