Guest Penelope from
Effective Ways To Support Your Child's Mental Health
Parents and families play a crucial role in supporting children with their mental health. For some parents though, it can be tricky to know where to start and how to provide the appropriate support. Below you will find some simple yet effective strategies that will help to build your child's awareness, understanding and the skills required for them to improve their mental health and wellbeing.
Firstly, let’s begin with the term ‘Mental Health’. Often hear about mental illnesses and diagnosis’ such as depression and anxiety. This is because as a society we typically don’t tend to focus on mental health from a preventative perspective, instead it isn’t until concerns are raised and something is considered ‘wrong’, that we acknowledge mental health as an issue. It's important however, to understand mental health as a spectrum. Just as adults have great days, good days, ok days and crappy days, so too do children. The roller coaster of emotions is a natural part of life, which we all experience daily as human beings, no matter what age we are.
So why is children's mental health so important?
In order for your child to thrive and reach their full potential, their mental health is a key factor in their success to do so. Good mental health and wellbeing ensures that children are better able to build healthy relationships, face challenges, adapt to change, be productive in their learning, think positively about themselves and their abilities, manage or work through their emotions, and to enjoy life in general. It is never too early to support your child’s learning around their mental health and wellbeing, as long as you keep in mind their age and provide child friendly information! As a parent or an influential adult, you will be able to support your child’s independence and ability to manage their own mental health and wellbeing, by using the following strategies:
Build a trusting relationship
Create an environment at home where it’s safe for everyone to talk about their feelings. You can simply do this by making an effort to always acknowledge your child's emotions and clarifying their thoughts or concerns.
Listen without judgement
Try to keep an open mind and remember that to your child, their issues are important, so they need to be taken seriously by us as supporting adults. You don’t always have to have the answers or the solutions, in fact most of the time kids just want us to listen, understand and most importantly to validate how they are feeling.
Provide positive reinforcement
Be conscious of your direct interactions with your child and the way in which you talk about them to others. Make sure that you constantly recognise and acknowledge their efforts, and not just praising them when they do well or succeed.
Check in with yourself
If you are feeling heightened or triggered emotions and struggling with your child’s emotions in any way, stop and simply ask yourself why that might be. Checking in with yourself and being mindful of your own emotions will help you to regulate how you are feeling and thinking, and in turn assist you to be more understanding of both yours and your child's needs in those tricky times.
Share coping strategies
Talk about and model different coping strategies. For example, you can start by talking about your day and how certain things made you feel, then talk about what strategies helped by explaining what you did (or can do) when you are feeling worried, sad or angry etc. Keep in mind that what works for you might not work for your child so try exploring different options with them which they might like to use in similar situations.
Create a self care list
Self care ensures that you are doing things to look after yourself, in particular your mental health and wellbeing. Whether its some quiet time, practicing mindfulness, listening to music, catching up or calling a friend, or playing a game of basketball, self care is a daily essential for everyone. Show your children that it’s important to look after your physical and mental health by writing out your self care lists together and then making an effort each day to carry out at least one of the activities on your list.
Set up a consistent routine
A predictable environment can create a sense of security and familiarly for children. When your child knows what to expect, they are better able to manage stress and understand clear boundaries. Help to create a smooth family life in your home by building some simple and fun daily routines together with your child.
Seek help if you have serious concerns for your child's mental health, always seek professional advice from your doctor or mental health professional. Its also really important that you find the right services for you and your child, so its ok to keep looking in order to find the right support for your family.
If talking is tricky for you or your little one
Try having a conversation during activities that involve movement, like going for a walk or throwing a ball, or finding opportunities where you are sitting parallel instead of face to face, like colouring in a picture together or preparing dinner. These types of activities can help to take the pressure off talking, however if your child still does not seem ready or up for talking, always let them know that you will be available whenever they need. Learning and implementing these strategies on a regular basis is not always going to be easy and may also not come naturally, so it really does take time and lots of practice. Be kind to yourselves as parents and know that the most valuable thing you can do to support your child's mental health, is to show them unconditional positive love. This communicates to your child that no matter what, they are valued. Check out our latest giveaway and the Inner Assembly a small wellbeing Australian business run by Penelope in Melbourne, Australia. Penelope started her business as a passion project, creating fun mental health related activities and resources for children and adolescences through the COVID lockdowns and very quickly evolved into an opportunity to create something unique and super fun of much needed education on mental health and wellbeing topics for the younger generations