Are there ways to help protect your child’s mental health?
-Oct 8, Caroline Blight, Health -
If you’re a parent, you likely spend a large amount of time worrying about your child’s happiness. We asked two experts what we can do to help our children develop a healthy mindset when it comes to depression and other forms of mental illness such as anxiety and stress.
October 10th is World Mental Health Day and a good chance to reflect on one of the most at risk groups for mental health issues now – children. Children’s mental health has never been so under pressure. It’s thought that 1 in 10 children and young people have problems with their mental health including depression, anxiety and stress but most worryingly 70% of them have not had the appropriate intervention and help. This is a timebomb for the future as our children’s emotional well-being is every bit as important as their physical health as they move into adulthood.
Unresolved issues in childhood can mean they don’t develop the appropriate resistance to cope with life as an adult. Their ability to cope with difficult – or even everyday – situations is compromised.
Becky Goddard Hill and Penny Alexander are multi-award winning parenting bloggers and authors of the new children’s happiness book Create Your Own Happy, a fun-filled, inspirational activity book aims to help children and their carers develop a healthier mindset and coping strategies. So, we asked Becky and Penny how best we can help our children.
What are the biggest mental health challenges facing children today?
It was JK Rowling who said that the internet was a boon and a curse for young people. We agree. The internet creates all kinds of amazing opportunities, but social media, gaming and the internet are also whole new worlds for young people and their parents – who generally only experienced the internet as grown-ups themselves – to navigate.
Celebrity culture and the media creates all kinds of pressures in terms of goals, ideals, representation and body confidence. And school testing is placing increasing pressure on children, it might be the schools and teachers are being tested but parents are using tests to choose schools and it is children who are suffering.
What are the key ways we can protect our children?
Instilling confidence, a growth mindset, digital and emotional resilience and teaching children happiness boosting skills they can use throughout their lives.
What are the best ways we can arm them with the tools they need to cope?
Parenting has never been so hotly debated and discussed, making it a huge and often overwhelming challenge in itself. Giving children our time and attention, space to work through their emotional health and development, listening to their concerns and their feelings and making time to teach emotional health skills and model them ourselves is so important.
This all sounds easy but it can be intimidating, so we decided to make it easier to digest, our book is jam packed with fun and inspirational activities which help to tackle different challenges to happiness. The book is full of bite sized happy life lessons, enabling children to create their own happy, along with explanations of the thinking and science behind each activity.
So many more children are suffering from depression – you think many grown-ups and parents are ill equipped to handle this?
When adults go to the doctors with depression there are lots more options, currently we have a dearth of services for children, and young people’s mental health services are in crisis. Childhood is meant to be worry free, so having a depressed child can be incredibly hard to bear as a parent. Recent research suggests that as much as 40% of happiness is within our control, so there is a big difference parents can make, teaching simple happiness skills can absolutely help to impact on that 40%.
Do we need to make time for doing nothing and relaxation as well as all the clubs and teams they are signed up for?
Yes, we live in a digital era, where helicopter parenting is increasingly becoming the norm and children’s roaming areas have decreased dramatically. We need to make a space and place for children to be creative, bored and able to relax.
Your book aims to help kids find their happy with simple exercises – can you give examples of a couple things children can do easily which can make a big difference?
We all know gratitude is good for us, looking for the happy at the end of the day, but the idea here is to actively identify and plan happy activities into you day. The Create Your Own Happy jar is a lovely way to notice the little things that actually make you happy. Why not have a jar on your dining table and at mealtimes write down and store the things that made each family member happy? Look back on them a month later and see if you notice patterns, things you didn’t expect, or things you forgot made you happy. A lovely way to model happiness skills and have fun as a family! The book can be purchased for £9.99 at the Harper Collins website.
If you enjoyed this, why not take a look at our interview with Jo Love who kickstarted the online campaign #depressionwearslippy which is to encourage other people to understand that just because a person looks happy on the outside they could still be battling depression or other mental health issues. And, Melanie C was wonderfully frank when we talked to her about the need for a depression toolkit which is healthy things you can do to help stave off those early signs of depression.