How to help your kids take care of their mental health
Posted by Samantha Lawson
It’s been a challenging year and we know many of you are feeling it - and that’s not just the adults, your kids might be struggling too. So, we asked our friends at the Mental Health Foundation to share five simple things you can do to support your child’s mental health, and make them more likely to ask for help if they need it…
Model good habits and ways to cope
Children look up to the adults in their lives; if we show them the ways that we take care of our mental health day to day, and when we’re having a hard day, they may well apply those strategies themselves. These can be things that we explicitly do for our mental health, like mindfulness or therapy appointments, or self-care activities, like exercise and time outdoors.
Why not try… inviting your child to join you in whatever habit you do to take care of your mental health and explain how it helps e.g. “I like to do some yoga every day because it helps me feel calm” or “I’ve had a tough day at work so I’m going to go for a walk to clear my head”.
Schedule quality time- together and apart
Whilst there is a definite benefit in spending time together as a family, it’s not only when we’re together that we can support our child’s wellbeing. We all need personal alone time and it’s OK to find and take it. Children do need a lot of our time and attention, but they also need time alone. Depending on how old children are, this might be independent play while you’re nearby or downtime in their own space.
Why not try… a book club. Everyone retreats to their own space with a book of their choice, then you can reconnect later and discuss what you’ve read. Or with younger children, helping them make a den on their bed where they can play for a few minutes might give you a much-needed coffee break.
We can support our mental health by taking care of other elements of our lives, too. Encouraging children, and particularly teenagers, to stick to a healthy sleep regimen is an important way we can help them take care of their mental health. If we haven’t had enough sleep, it can affect our ability to pay attention, think clearly, our mood and our relationships.
Why not try… a bedroom revamp. Making sure your sleep space is relaxing and comfortable can help you switch off and get a good night’s rest. Children might like to choose bedding or lighting, or help you rearrange furniture to make their sleep space more inviting. Keeping distractions like screens out of bedrooms helps too.
Switch off to switch on
Part of supporting our children’s wellbeing is understanding what they’re experiencing, so it’s important to find time to connect. This doesn’t need to be a deep and pointed conversation “about mental health” – asking creative questions about what they think and feel about the world can tell us so much. It’s often during daily tasks like cooking or in the car, that children feel comfortable to talk about things that are important to them. And whilst screens and social media can bring so many positives, sometimes, we need to put our phones down and have some screen-free time to connect.
Why not try… using some of the activities in the Mental Health Foundation’s Time for Us pack to get started.
Give something back
Taking care of others and giving back can be powerful ways to boost our mental health. Whilst this might take the form of donating money to charity, there are other ways we can care for people around us. For example, over the lockdown period, lots of community initiatives arose to provide support to vulnerable neighbours. Contributing to a cause that feels meaningful to you can help build feelings of connection and belonging which are crucial for good mental health. Children thrive on the feeling of helping others, and it can also help strengthen supportive relationships with important people in their lives.
Why not try… picking one of the Mental Health Foundation’s Random Acts of Kindness that you can implement, or play a game of Secret Friend (like Secret Santa, but with kind acts) within your household.
NEOM is proud to partner with the Mental Health Foundation to support its Peer Education Project, which trains older pupils to teach younger pupils in their school about mental health. Find out more about our partnership here.