Registered counsellor and psychotherapist Sharon Hinsull shines a light on children’s mental health.
With one in every six children in the UK being found to be living with a diagnosable mental health problem, there is now an increasing emphasis being placed on the importance of teaching young people the psychological coping skills required for developing long-term emotional resilience.
In response to this growing challenge, children’s mental health charity Place2B recommends the following strategies for helping your child to build and maintain the necessary resilience to get them through some of the more mentally and emotionally testing times in their life.
1. Develop a sense of community belonging
Whenever possible, support your child to build a positive relationship with other important adults in their life. This can help them develop better friendships and empathy and is linked to higher levels of educational achievement and self-esteem.
2. Model positive relationships
Happy relationships between parents and significant adults lead to better mental and physical health for all involved. Children thrive emotionally when they see and are involved in warm and caring relationships where they are respected and valued.
3. Develop positive routines
It’s good to remember that our mental health relies on physical routines. Try to find a routine that works for your family. One that has consistent and clear boundaries.
4. Help your child develop coping strategies
Coping strategies help us to deal with overwhelming feelings. Encourage your child to find one, or more, that they can turn to. For example, they could try relaxation, exercise, journaling, music or distraction techniques.
5. Support your child to face specific challenges
Worries about everyday experiences are a good chance to help prepare your child to face future challenges. For instance, you could support them in managing the anxiety about going to a sleepover or presenting their work in assembly.
6. Let your child flex their muscles
It’s so helpful for children to learn that they can do things on their own. Overprotecting them won’t help. Remember that a tolerable amount of stress is actually beneficial.
7. Seek external help
Schools can be an important source of resilience for all children, so do team up with your child’s school and access the support they offer.
Some children face multiple, and more serious, Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). These can affect them in adulthood unless they receive professional support. But they can gain understanding and control over the past and overcome significant adversity when they are helped to tell a meaningful story about difficult experiences. They might need specialist support from a mental health professional to do this.
More information about this year’s Children’s Mental Health Week, along with links to further helpful resources for parents and carers can be found by clicking here.