6 – 12 February, is Children’s Mental Health Week, run by the children’s mental health charity Place2Be. This year’s theme is Let’s Connect. When we have healthy connections – to family, friends and others – this can support our children’s sense of well-being.
Over the past few months, I’ve noticed quite a change in Sam, his attitude and his behaviour. Now some of this can be put down to his age (11 going on 18 LOL). It can also be put down to his awareness of so many transitions and changes this year (EHCP assessment, ADHD assessment, ‘Big’ school visits etc.). However, a huge amount of this for me is his ability to simply cope with the everyday.
Why the struggle?
Sam’s ADHD & Dyslexia not only affects his ability to deal with schoolwork but actually also his ability to simply access the schoolwork in the first place. Individuals with a Neurodivergent mind use so much of their energy just to be able to do the simple tasks Neurotypicals take for granted. So for example Sam uses a great deal of his energy to just sit still for a prolonged period of time in class, to focus on listening to a lesson, or read a page of a book. These are all things that a lot of his peers will take for granted and not have to think about. This means that listening to the lesson he has had to sit still for; completing a worksheet whilst listening to a lesson; or simply comprehending what he has just read, is another effort on top of the existing strain.
Not only that but children with ADHD are generally about 2-3 years behind in terms of emotional and social development. However, in general, the expectations on their behaviour in general society and school is expected to be on a level par with their peers. It simply isn’t an equal playing field.
So for me, I wanted to look at ways to help Sam deal with the emotional fallout from this year. To help him build his emotional intelligence and really work on ensuring his mental health is as ‘healthy’ as it can be. So here are my top 5 ways to look after your children’s mental health.
5 Top Tips to help your children’s Mental Health
1. Spend quality time together – Make an effort to carve out regular quality time with your child each day. This could be spent walking, playing sports, cooking, or anything that your child enjoys and where you can talk about anything that comes up.
2. Talk openly about mental health issues – Remove any stigma around talking about feelings and mental health by being open and honest with your child. Let them know it is ok not to be ok but that help is available if they need it.
3. Help your child regulate their emotions – Set aside a special time each day to do activities like yoga, meditation or music that can help your child learn how to better regulate their emotions.
4. Encourage socialising – Give your child the opportunity to make and maintain strong social connections. This can happen in a range of settings, from talking over the family dinner table to playing sports or joining a community group.
5. Help them talk about their worries – Encourage your child to talk about their worries, no matter what the problem is. Listen and provide practical strategies for managing their anxiety before the worries become too difficult to handle.
Of course, if you are truly worried about your children’s mental health, then please trust your gut and seek professional help. If you feel your child is really struggling and whatever strategies you have put in place are not working, then please speak to your GP or a mental health professional.
How are your kids? How is their mental health and well-being, have you sat down and talked to them recently? It may not always be easy, but if we take those moments to really connect, then we are definitely on the right path to really developing our children’s emotional intelligence.
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