We often look at mental health as something us adults go through. What we dont realise is that for alot of us, it started when we were children. Maybe it was put down as ‘Bad behaviour’ or ‘hormonal’ but alot of the time thats not the case!! Every year the percentage of children being officially diagnosed with anxiety/depression and other mental illnesses is raising. What can we do to help them??
I’m in no way a professional, but here are my tips from experience with my son, on what works for us.
1. TALK!! Touch base with your child every day. Even if they seem great, it’s still a MUST to check in on their emotions. As children grow and become more sociable they too will learn to hide feelings and emotions due to the fear of embarrassment. So take a few minutes every day just the two of you to show them it’s ok to talk about emotions. Make a game of it almost, have a drink together (warm milk, something relaxing) and talk about your day and tell them anything that may have made you abit anxious or emotional that day. Doing this helps them not feel so alone.
2. Make sure they understand fully what’s going on with them. As someone who’s anxiety started as a child myself, I often look back and think I wish I knew then what I do now. And so when my son started showing signs of having anxiety I knew I needed to take action as I didnt want him feeling like I did!! Let your child know they’re not sick. This isnt all in their mind. Its very real and mostly, IT’S GOING TO BE OK. Reassurance is key.
3. Communicate with the school. As much as we want to, as parents we cant be everywhere at all times and school is one of those places we wish we could be to protect our child. Let the teachers know whats going on. They may have extra advice for you or will know when your child is having a bad day. I had a parents evening last summer and my sons teacher said ‘I know within 5 minutes of class starting if he’s going to have a bad day or not’. I cant tell you the ease this gave me!! To know my sons teacher was there looking out for him as much as I was made me feel alot less worried and it gave him a sense of relief too!!
4. Learn their signs. Know from body language, behaviour pattern’s how they may be feeling. Are they fidgeting? More tierd than usual? not making good eye contact (if they normally would). Being quiet and isolating themselves or avoiding conversation. These are all telltale signs that your child may not be feeling themselves but don’t know how to deal with it themselves or how to open up about it.
5. Get them their own notebook/diary and tell them its theirs to write whatever they want in whether it be something good or bad. Now some may not agree here BUT when your child is at school you can take a look just to check in. I know the whole invasion of privacy but when your child is only 8 or 9 they may not be able to communicate how they’re feeling as of yet. This way, it’s helping them get their feelings out and helping you have an inside look into their mind.
6. Teach them little exercises to do for when they feel that panic coming on. Here’s my 2 favourite…
Take slow deep breaths in and out. Imagine theres a bubble in your tummy so when you take a big breath it fills the bubble with air (your tummy rising) then when you let it all out the bubble is empty again. As you exhale dont be afraid to give that extra little blow at the end, think of it as blowing all those emotions away!!
5 4 3 2 1
This is my favourite that I use myself daily and have been finding it helpful with my son too as it can be done anywhere and is unnoticable.
Look around you and find…
- 5 things you can see.
- 4 things you can hear
- 3 things you can touch
- 2 things you can smell
- 1 thing you can taste
Teach it to them as a game. Its a great distraction technique that your child can do sitting in class or the car, even walking down the street!! Before they know it they will have forgotten what they’re worrying over as they’re too busy looking for things!!
I really hope some of this info helps you and your children in whatever battles you may be dealing with. If you try any of these and they help please comment and let me know, or if you have any other things you do with your child that may help me or others.
Much Love – Mrs Slee-Jones xx