5 things you should know about children and young people's mental health
Children and young people express themselves in lots of different ways. They often show their anger, frustration, happiness or joy through play, art or general behaviour. You don’t have to sit down and talk with a child to understand what’s going on for them. Watch how they’re playing, what they’re doing, how they’re behaving. Take part and engage on their level, and you could find out an awful lot about how they are feeling.
As every parent knows, children and young people have their own understanding of time, and this can often be very different to yours. They will choose when they’re ready to share their feelings with you. Parents often try to get their child to talk to them by pushing and cajoling. It’s hard to get the balance right between starting a conversation, and making your child feel under pressure. Relax and be patient. The important thing is to keep making it clear that you’re ready to listen when they’re ready to talk.
All adults have a role to play. It doesn’t matter if you’re a parent or not. You can still have a role in supporting the children and young people in your life, whether you work with young people, or you’re an auntie, uncle, friend or neighbour. Children can sometimes surprise us by sharing their thoughts and emotions with people we wouldn’t expect them to. Ideally, we should all be ready to listen to children and young people whenever they try to talk with us.
Children and young people can be amazingly resilient, creative and practical about the challenges they face. There’s a lot that we, as adults, can learn from them. Don’t be surprised if children and young people don’t respond the way you expect them to if they’re facing a difficult or challenging time. They will often find their own way. The important thing is that they feel loved and supported, and that they understand that, although emotions can be complex and confusing, they are also a natural response to the world around us.
Finally, we can’t help children and young people with their mental health unless we look after ourselves! It’s all too easy to forget when we are juggling busy lives, but modelling positive attitudes to mental health is the best way to show children and young people how to cope during difficult or stressful times. Look after yourself and explain to your child how you are doing this. For instance: “I’ve had a really tough day, so I think I’m going to have a nice relaxing bath, or I’m going to watch a film that will make me laugh.” Demonstrating healthy ways of coping with stress and other difficult feelings will also help them to feel confident that you are strong enough to cope with whatever they might want share with you.
To help Visyon support children and young people’s mental health, make a donation at https://www.visyon.org.uk/make-a-donation.