I don’t know about you, but the last few months have certainly had an impact on my mental health. My anxiety has definitely got worse and I've certainly had periods of low mood. It’s been a challenge and an effort to try and manage my mental health as best as I can.
As a mum of two small children, aged two and five, I am always worrying about how it’s affecting them as well. Despite our best efforts to protect them from the impacts of these awful few months, it’s impossible to shield them completely.
My five year old has probably suffered the most. Besides concern over her missing her education, what has been most evident from the last few months is that she is absolutely desperate to see her school friends, grandparents and wider family. She craves this more than anything, and at five years old we have often found it a challenge to explain the situation in an appropriate way that she understands.
We have noticed when we chat with her about behaviours that has been out of character, most of the time she bursts into tears and tells us she misses her friends, or her Gran, or that she just wants things to go back to normal. It's heartbreaking as we feel powerless. We know that we can't change the situation around her and that she's struggling to deal with lots of emotions that a five year old wouldn't normally have to try and process. At least not all at once, and on such a large scale!
TIPS FOR SUPPORTING YOUR CHILD'S MENTAL HEALTH
Whilst we can’t control what is happening right now, there are lots of really useful resources available to help parents provide support to their children’s mental health. Here is a summary of the guidance I found:
- Take time to listen to your child. Let them know it’s OK to feel what they're feeling. The Young Minds conversation starter is a great resource for this. Let them know if you feel some of those emotions too.
- Have age appropriate conversations to avoid unnecessary fear and worry for younger children.
- Be honest when answering your children’s questions and don’t be afraid to tell them if you don’t know the answer.
- Pay attention to their emotions and behaviours for signs of stress and worry.
- Build routines. Have mealtimes, bedtimes and wake up times the same.
- Show an interest in the things that are important to them.
- Take time to do positive activities together. Have a look at the Young Minds site for ideas of short fun activities to do together.
- Encourage social interaction even if this can’t be in person. Use technology, or write letters (this also helps with homeschooling efforts - win-win!).
- Take time to look after yourself. You will be in a better position to help your child if you can look after your own mental wellness too.
Here are links to some fantastic resources with a wealth of information and support.
- Tips for starting conversations
- Keeping communications open
- Parent’s tips to looking after themselves
- 20 activities in 20 minutes
This has a really useful and short video with simple tips to help your child.
This website is especially for young people aged 8-25 to stay emotionally and physically well. It’s made up of therapists, creatives and techies who use social therapy techniques to help young people with their mental health. It has a HUGE selection of resources available for young people including:
- Yoga sessions
- Art groups
- Baking classes
- Augmented reality workshops
They also offer the opportunity to book a session with a therapist. Best of all, it’s completely FREE!
Useful information on parenting through a pandemic with a downloadable ‘Time For Us Pack’. They also have some great activities to get adults and children talking about feelings
- Top tips to support children and young people
- Signs that something is wrong
- Looking after your own mental health
Hopefully these resources can you you support your children through this exceptionally challenging time. If you have any additional tips or resources not mentioned we would love to hear about them in the comments.