We are coming to the end of Children’s Mental Health Week 2018. The theme this year is celebrating uniqueness and being ourselves. Nowadays, given the exponential rise of social media, the pressure on children to be ‘perfect’ or to blend in with the crowd has never more exacerbated. Children are bombarded with highlight reels from their peers on social media or perfect images of prefabricated, perfect celebrity lives. Many children may not understand these images are often very carefully constructed and do not represent true life. Many children measure their lives and self-worth against those that they see online. This can lead to real issues re self-esteem, especially when a child is at their most impressionable and vulnerable.
According to statistics, mental health and wellbeing is a concern for many young people aged 11-16. In a recent survey, by the Department of Health (2016) over a third of young people within this age bracket had concerns about their mental health and as many as 61% of respondents did not seek professional help for their mental health concerns.
Children’s Mental Health week is a great way to raise awareness about mental health and to sensitively introduce self-care practices or concepts to children by promoting mental wellbeing in the classroom, playground, at home and online.
1. Get their creativity flowing – music, art and drama are great ways for young people to explore their feelings. These mediums can help young people to understand themselves better. Creating art can induce a sense of accomplishment and trigger endorphins in the brain. This can be great for boosting mood and in turn, contribute to good mental wellbeing. Cathartic creativity can provide an insight into a child or young person’s state of mind.
2. Get them moving – There is a growing body of evidence to suggest that exercise can help to combat or relieve symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress. Exercise is said to increase the levels of endorphins, serotonin and other chemical messengers in your brain that help to lift your mood. That being said exercising is also great for their physical health and wellbeing. Simple exercise is best; playing in the garden, going on a bike ride or even downloading apps such as ‘GoNoodle Kids’ (ages 5 and up) that have dancing, yoga and other exercise videos for kids to watch and follow. For more info, watch ‘Four tech tips to get kids fit’ below
3. Mindfulness concepts – Mindfulness can be a great way to manage your mental wellbeing and the concept encourages us to remain in ‘the present moment’ using various techniques such as meditation or breathing techniques. It is a great idea to teach mindfulness techniques to children such as light meditation or breathing as it will help them to experience a sense of calm. There are great apps out there that help to introduce mindfulness through guided meditations and breathing exercises. Apps such as ‘Smiling Mind’ (ages 7 and up) are wonderful and available on the app store and google play.
4. Encourage kids to talk about their feelings – It’s important to try and remain open and empathetic to a child’s concerns or worries. If you suspect that your child or a child in your care is having a hard time, ask them directly what is wrong, encourage open dialogue about their concerns or fears. If they present a problem to you that causes you to be alarmed, such as becoming involved in a sexting incident with a classmate, don’t over react. This will only shut down the conversation. Remain calm and assure the child that you are there for them.
Remember, if you are worried about your child or their mental health, talk to their GP or someone at your child’s school. It is important to escalate any concerns you have about a child, if you feel their wellbeing is in any danger whatsoever. For more information and tips about child protection, keeping children safe online and much more, you can visit our website www.ineqe.com. For more information about Children’s Mental Health Week, visit www.place2be.org.uk/