Today marks the start of Children’s Mental Health Week so I have a week of posts planned all about the subject. Obviously, mental health is one of my passions. Added into this, the pandemic and the toll that lockdown is taking on our children, and I feel this week is more important than ever.
The theme of this year’s week is EXPRESS YOURSELF. This is a great opportunity to get your children talking about their feelings creatively. This could happen through art, drama, music, poetry, wiring, dance or photography. Place2Be’s Children’s Mental Health Week website has lots of great resources for parent’s to download and print, for both primary and secondary age children. There is also a section with tips and support for parents and carers.
Obviously in the current situation, the mental health impact of lockdowns and the pandemic has been on many people’s minds. However, equipping our children with good habits and tools to help them thrive, not just as children but as adults, is super important all of the time.
Here are just a few tips which may help you support your children during the current lockdown and beyond:
Stick to a routine – keeping some semblance of a routine during the week will really help your children… and you! Getting up, dressed, eating healthily at the correct times, doing school work as well as making sure there are times to do fun stuff is super important. Not only will it help your children when they do get back to school but it will really help change your mood. I talk a lot about routine for people with chronic illnesses. Not being in work currently due to my health, it would be easy to stay in my PJs all day and spend hours in bed. Although the odd PJ day is great and I fully encourage it on occasion, spending every day like this really depletes my mood and leaves me feeling even more fatigued. Obviously some days, I don’t have a choice, as I am just too poorly to do a lot else, but I see a marked improvement when I do get dressed and stick to a routine.
Keep your bedtime routine – As with the point above about a daily routine, sticking to a good bedtime routine is super important as well. Sleep is essential for children, not only to feel rested and ready for the following day, but also to grow! Although the boys are playing on their devices much more at the moment, I try and make sure they have some wind down time before bed and we always spend 20 minutes reading together before they go to sleep.
Get outside – This is so much harder at the moment thanks to the awful weather we have had. During the first lockdown the weather was so much better and we could spend time out of the house for our allotted exercise as well as unlimited time in our garden. Although you may have to lessen the time and wrap up a lot more, it is still super important to get out for a bit of exercise and fresh air. I took little lady for a bike ride last weekend and although she ended up covered in mud, she came home happy and we had a lovely hot chocolate to warm up. Riley absolutely loved the snow we had recently and we spent time building a snowman, having snowball fights and making snow angels.
Listen – Listening, and I mean really listening is so important not just now but always. Ask your children regularly about how they feel so they get used to talking abbot feelings. Another great tip is to make sure you share your feelings with your children. Admit the bad as well as the good – that the lockdown is making you feel frustrated and lonely. Tell them you didn’t sleep very well last night so you feel a bit grumpy. They learn the most from following your lead. By telling them often that you are fine when your body language or demeanour is demonstrating anything but that, will just confuse them and make them believe you should cover up more negative feelings. When you are having these conversations, don’t be doing other things like playing on your phone. Make sure your child knows that what they are telling you is important to you – even if it seems trivial, it may be a huge deal to them. Some problems we can’t fix unfortunately, while others we can help find a solution to, or at least find something that will help. Discuss the options and ideas with your child and help them find solutions for themselves.
Pay attention – children can find it hard at first to express their feelings and this means they can come out in different ways. Notice their behaviour and what they are doing – could it be a sign that something is going on? Maybe they aren’t sleeping well or acting out through their behaviour. Sometimes, they are just having an off day, but make sure you are aware of these changes so you can make sure that is all that is going on.
Encourage their interests – my boys love their devices and I am not going to lie, they have spent more time on them during lockdown. So much has been taken away from them, that I think they deserve to be able to have their own form of escape, just as we have the things we like and choose to do in our free time. I also love the fact that they still get to chat and play with their friends, who they are missing dreadfully at the moment. The boys have also wanted me to join in with them, lately, hence me learning to play Rocket League with them although I have drawn the line with Fortnite and FIFA! We have also done other fun things such as Lego projects, family quizzes, baking, board games, watched game shows and NASA lives.
Were you aware of Children’s Mental Health Week? I hope these tips were helpful, if you have anymore I would love to hear them in the comments! Take care and keep safe everyone,