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How to talk to your kids about mental health

Posted on 05 February 2021


This week, 1-7 February, is Children's Mental Health Week, so we’ve put together some ways that parents and carers can support children’s mental wellbeing.

The last twelve months have been tough for everyone - but especially our kids. Some children and young people have really struggled with the coronavirus outbreak keeping them at home and away from friends. Others may be coming to terms with family problems, bereavement, or changes to their living situation.

Practical tips for lockdown

During lockdown both adults and children are feeling the strain of being cooped up inside and feeling anxious about the future. It may not be easy, but try to reintroduce structure around regular routines, healthy eating and exercise. A good night's sleep is also really important – try to get them back into routines that fit with school or college.

As a guide, both adults and children should try to tick off one of each PACE activity per day: 

  • Physical - going outside, or even doing a Joe Wicks type exercise class at home together promotes well-being, releases endorphins and reduces stress hormones. 
  • Achieve - doing something that leads to a sense of achievement – whether that’s kids completing their homework or adults tidying up the house. It is important to name the activity before and congratulate each other on getting it done.
  • Connect – schedule in a chat with somebody important to you, even if it is online. It’s not the same as being face-to-face but it does make everybody feel better. 
  • Enjoyment - do something that you really like. It doesn't have to be virtuous - it could be eating a slice of your favourite cake! Whatever you choose, take a moment to really appreciate it.

And more generally…

One of the most important things we can do for our kids is listen to them. Regularly ask how they're doing so they get used to talking about their feelings and know there's always someone to talk to if they want it.

Show interest in their life and the things that are important to them. It not only helps them value who they are but also makes it easier for you to spot problems and support them.

Listening to and valuing what kids say makes them feel valued. Don’t judge their feelings or wave them away – acknowledge that this is a really difficult time and plenty of adults are struggling with negative emotions too.

Pay attention to their emotions and behaviour, and try to help them work through difficulties in a constructive way. It's not always easy when faced with challenging behaviour, but try to help them understand what they're feeling and why.

If you’re worried about your child, you can speak to your GP, or find further help at the following sites:

You may also find helpful our article ‘Living through lockdown with kids’ for more practical advice and support.

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