1 in 10 children under the age of 18 suffer from a mental health problem in the UK and Ireland. Sufficient support for these children can often be tricky to find, with waiting lists for children’s mental health services growing ever longer.
Good mental health as a child helps us to grow into well rounded, resilient adults later in life. At a time when society has high expectations of us all, it’s never too late to start supporting your child’s well-being.
So, how do we support our children to ensure they stay mentally well?
Remind them that you’re on their team
Over on our UK blog, we’ve collected some quick and easy suggestions for showing your child that they’re always on your mind. These 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
Is your child more withdrawn that usual? Small signs like not eating their dinner, wanting to spend more time alone or showing less enthusiasm for the things they love can be signs of mental illness. Being aware of changes in behaviour help you to recognise when your child isn’t feeling well and help you to support them before the feelings escalate.
ACCEPT THEIR FEELINGS
As adults, our worries are very different to that of a child, but that doesn’t mean that their worries aren’t valid. Although a falling out with a friend might seem trivial to a grown up, to a child, this could mean everything. It’s vital to acknowledge and empathise with your child to show that you hear them and will support their emotions. Open and supportive conversations using phrases like, “it can be hard when we feel sad, can’t it?” show empathy and allow you to get to the bottom of the problem.
ASK FOR HELP
We all need help sometimes. It can be especially difficult for children to ask for help or to admit that they would like to talk to someone other than their parent. Both your child’s school and GP are able to provide additional support, so don’t be afraid to ask for support – not just for your child, but for you, too!