In January 2021, Children in England didn’t return to school after the Christmas break. Back then, we were living in our third national lockdown and home-schooling again. When my children where much younger we were indoors for a considerable amount of time. I was struggling to get through the day to day, trying to cope with postnatal depression. I couldn’t drive (still can’t). My friends lived far away. Hubby worked long hours. I was afraid to go out on my own. It was almost like of social distancing. Those were tough years but we are stronger for it. We’ve learnt so much about each other. I chose early on to follow my gut and practice child-led parenting. In celebration of Children’s Mental Health Week, I’ll share with you what I’ve learnt from supporting my children’s mental health.
Children’s Mental Health Week
Children’s Mental Health week was launched by Place2Be in 2015. The aim was to bring attention to the importance of children and young people’s mental health. Now more than ever we as parent’s, carers and grownup with children in our care to support them in having good mental health. Their website will find resources and wellbeing activities for children to try at home.
5 Ways to support your child’s mental health
Children are having more screen time. During lockdown home-schooling required online engagement. Now, even when they want to relax they turn to their gadgets. It’s understandable as a parent/carer you will feel torn. I know I am. Hubby and I still don’t have family nearby and my children’s interactions with their friends have also moved online. We try to maintain a level of discipline and structure based on where they mentally, although some things are not debatable.
Have a sleep routine
“Creating a set pattern each night to help your child to sleep more easily will help to support their overall wellbeing. A routine that includes activities, such as a warm bath, listening to music, reading a bedtime story or deep breathing techniques can help your child to wind down at the end of the day.”
My own kids still enjoy story time. Sometimes we cuddle up and read them a story. Other times, it’s lights out and I’ll tuck them into bed and they will listen (not watch) to their favourite story online. When the story is over the sound is shut down. If they have had a trying I’ll put a few drops of lavender essential oil or pillow spray on their duvet.
Reduce screen time
In our home the rules during school time, the kids have regular breaks without online gadgets. After school they have roughly 2 hours to watch their favourite online channel but that too is broken. No gaming is allowed during the week. Honestly, we don’t always stick some of those rules. Recently, we made the commitment to have a digital detox of roughly 6-7 hours on a Sunday. The plan was to watch movies together, play board games, go for walks, read or simply do nothing.
In the book Niksen: Embracing the Dutch Art of Doing Nothing by Olga Mecking, the Business Psychologies and Author, Tony Crabb is said to believe;
‘giving children the experience of doing niks, and letting them create and imagine what to do with that time, isn’t optional, it’s a required experience for a child’
In the past, I’ve noticed when my kids didn’t have gadgets, they would be bored at first but then they made up games together. They even argued less. RESULT!
Try arts and crafts
I learnt this one from my son actually, even before lockdown, began drawing to unwind. Usually after just before bed when the gadgets are off he’ll draw. We enjoy his creations and sometimes his sister joins in. I also enjoy painting or colouring for relaxation. Sometimes the three of us do it together. This year, Children’s Mental Health Week theme is ‘express yourself’. Luv it! They have got a cracking video which inspired me to try something new with my kids, it’s called the Squiggle Game.
There are other activities your ca tries. Check out the Place2Be’s Art Room for an activity that fits your child’s age and interest.
Get some exercise
It seems like a no-brainer but is often overlooked, EXERCISE. Again, I learnt this very early with my son. He liked to out and about being wild and free but I couldn’t always give him that for reasons mentioned above. I would play their favourite nursery rhymes and songs and we would dance. Other times we would do Change 4 Life 10 Minutes Shake Up Games.
If you are fortunate to have a park or public green near your, older kids might enjoy a walk and a chat, kick about with a ball, bike riding or climbing. We now enjoy nature walks. The kids just open up on the website Highly Sensitive Child it says, ‘nature builds confidence- The outdoors is an invitation to explore and engage in unstructured play.
Another under estimated action, drinking water. Yes, the ole H20. In my house, water is a cure for everything bump head, stomped toe, feeling snacky, feeling angry, feeling sad. My kids will tell you my answer to most of their complements is ‘Drink some water’ at the very least it gives me a few seconds to come up with a catchy comeback.
In the study ‘Drinking plain water is associated with decreased risk of depression and anxiety in adults: Results from a large cross-sectional study’ by Fahimeh Haghighatdoost et al published in the Word Journal Of Psychology, 2018 it was reported;
‘… Water facilitates signaling pathway and nutrients delivery to the brain, removes toxins and inflammatory markers and provides energy sources for brain, and thereby improves brain function.’
The research concluded that, ‘There were inverse associations between plain water consumption and common psychological disorders’.
Although the study was done on adults, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say water may have the same effect on children, certainly older children and teens.
However, Kids Health Nemours says; ‘Besides being an important part of the fluids in your body, water is needed by each cell to work. Your body doesn’t get water only from drinking water.’
So try to ensure little ones have water and fresh juices, it all accounts.
No matter how old you children get; work at staying connected. Find the small quiet moments to have a chat. Don’t be afraid to show your own vulnerability sometimes, where age appropriate. It is by sharing your heart and your feelings that trust and connection is built.
I hope the above is helpful to you. Then again, if you are rocking this whole lockdown situation, what ‘survival tips’ would you like to share?
Comment below. I would love to hear from you.