While some of us are less affected by it than others, mental health is something which we all have. It’s the name we give to our emotional wellbeing and mental state. Mental health affects many things in life, such as our ability to deal with life’s stresses, learn, work, and contribute to society. Among those who suffer from it, there are varying symptoms and types of conditions that make them more prone to feeling the way they do. In this blog we’ve created with the help of a sixth form college in Hertfordshire, we share a little more information on mental health, what it specifically is and how you can support your child with theirs.
Understanding Mental Health
Start by understanding what is meant by mental health and explore the topic with your child. It can be difficult for children to navigate their feelings and understand what it is that they are going through. This will give you the chance to talk about how they feel within themselves and learn the signs. Feelings like stress and anxiety are quite common and we’re bound to experience them within our lifetimes. Understanding this and the logic behind each can help children to work through them better.
When Your Child May Feel Anxious and How to Deal with It
Your child may experience these feelings if they have their exams coming up or something big that they’re working on at school. Reassure them that nerves are normal and are our body’s way of responding to challenges. We enter fight or flight mode which is our body’s natural defence response. It can make us feel alarmed and panicked but the feeling usually doesn’t last for longer than half an hour and there are several ways to take control. Talking to others can help as they can offer solutions and reassurance. They can also minimise stress using mindfulness techniques.
Mindfulness is a way of managing our emotions and involves grounding ourselves to the present moment using what we can see, feel, hear, smell and taste. It allows us to concentrate on our present situation and can distract us from what we’re worried about. There are several methods of mindfulness that you can explore with your child from body scanning to soothing rhythm breathing exercises. They will need to test each and practise them in order to see a difference and find what works for them.
While there are things that they may be afraid of which bring about their fight or flight response, such as their fear of failure, it’s important that your child still has a go. Gradually easing them in and preparing can help make what they’re afraid of, like their exams, seem less intimidating and improve how they deal with those feelings in the future.
If your child’s experiencing low thoughts on the other hand, it’s very different and vital that they talk to someone. Let them know that you’re there for them and that they can come to you with whatever it is that they are going through. Listen to them, provide reassurance, and try not to invalidate their feelings. Take them seriously, even if they don’t seem like big issues to you. What they will be experiencing is very real and you should also take a non-judgemental approach to learn more about it and offer help. This might not feel comfortable or be something they know how to do so you may find that talking to a councillor, school mentor or someone they equally trust is helpful.
Self-care involves doing the things that make us happiest, like watching TV, having a pamper day and exercising our hobbies. Learning what makes them feel better will help them to identify what to do when they feel stressed or are experiencing low thoughts.
Set an Example
Mental health is just as important as physical health, and it should be prioritised. To reinforce this, you could also demonstrate how serious you take it yourself by exercising acts of self-care and checking in with your own mental health.
Knowing what to do can be tricky and you may need someone to lean on too. If their mental health is becoming a concern it’s vital you seek the right help and support, such as from a doctor or children’s councillor.