It’s Children’s Mental Health Week 2021 (1-7th of February) which highlights the importance of children and young people’s mental health.
This year’s theme is ‘Express yourself’, encouraging children to share their thoughts, feelings, ideas and opinions so they can process and heal.
I wanted to share 5 ways to help your children’s mental health and wellbeing below (tried and tested by us).
1. Create structure. Children need routine and boundaries to feel safe and while school closures have disrupted life for children, you can regain control by sticking to a homeschool schedule. We wake up early and tend to focus on school lessons and homework in the first half of the day (Live Lessons allowing) and afternoons are dedicated to exercise, films and an evening routine where bath and bedtime is the same time every day. We’re more relaxed on weekends but find the children are happier when we stick to routine in our day.
2. Encourage your children to communicate their feelings more by being candid and open yourself (in an age appropriate way). By speaking up, you naturalise mental health/ anxiety etc and your children will model your behaviour, sharing their feelings more easily as a result. Do stress that mental health is as important as physical health and encourage them to express themselves through art, painting, drawing and list making (my youngest’s school sent us a leaf drawing and asked he fills in the inside of it with drawings or words of everything he’s grateful for to boost his mood), and get into the habit of writing down any worries before bed so you can problem-solve, helping them to sleep more peacefully.
3. Make physical exercise fun. Release those endorphins in enjoyable ways whether that’s Sports Day style competitions in the park, tennis, Tag, indoor table tennis on your kitchen table, dancing around your living room or bike riding, make it fun and your kids will want to get moving.
4. Meditation apps. Using Insight Timer for 20 minutes a day, I have transformed my mood and life. The free app boasts 70,000 meditation exercises as well as yoga sessions, live classes and an area dedicated to parents and children. We tend to complete 2 mindul exercises for children, before bed at night and the children like them so much, they ask for them. It’s an important tool in helping children to self-soothe, an important life skill I wish I’d learnt as a child.
5. Listen. It’s easy to endlessly talk to your children but the art of listening is crucial. Be a trusted friend and cousel to your kids. Try not to judge, expressing compassion and empathy while advising, so they feel emotionally safe to discuss anything with you. Act on their concerns too. If they are being bullied, be proactive and discuss this with their teacher. Demonstrate to them that you can support them to become their happiest and healthiest self.