Think Good Feel Good – a Parent’s guide to supporting emotional health

Children’s mental health and emotional well-being should be a priority for us all. Anyone who has contact with a child has an impact on their mental health and emotional well-being. This blog looks at what mental health is and offers some tips to support children to Think Good Feel Good.

Mental health is as important as physical health and it is important to understand that every one of us has mental health. As one young person put it,

It doesn’t mean being happy all the time, but it does mean being able to cope with things.’

Children who are mentally healthy are able to develop psychological, emotionally, intellectually and spiritually. Mental health is accompanied by a sense of personal wellbeing, an ability to get along with others, to be able to cope with the normal range of problems/setbacks and learn from them.

Good mental health enables children to play and learn, develop a sense of right and wrong and make and maintain positive relationships. It is not uncommon for children and young people to experience mental health difficulties.

‘One in ten children aged 5-16 have a clinically diagnosed mental ill-health disorder.’

The challenge is to respond if things start to change or go wrong. If children and young people don’t look after their mental health they may experience low self-esteem, depression, reduced confidence which if they continue can lead to anxiety disorders, eating disorders, self-harming behaviours, or phobias. Getting help at an early stage when experiencing mental ill-health problems has significant impact on the chances of recover.

It’s good to talk
As parents it is really important to talk openly to children and young people about mental health. If a child or young person is faced with an issue ask them:

1. Where is this issue on a scale of 1-10?
2. How important will this be in 6 months’ time?
3. Is the response appropriate and effective?
4. How can you influence or improve the situation?
5. What can you learn from this?
6. What will you do differently next time?
7. What can you find that is positive in this situation?

Model behaviour
As a parent it is also important to model the behaviour you want to see, so it is vital to:-

Learn to love yourself and each other – children and young people will pick up on your own sense of personal well-being so be sure to take time out, have some fun together as a family and recognise if you are overloaded.
Instill consistent boundaries and discipline – remembering that discipline is not punishment.
Support and guidance – offer this from the point you are concerned, it might not be taken up initially but at a time when they are ready. Do some research so you know what is available through schools, websites, or other services.
Time to talk – we often have very busy lives, so it is important to find some time to talk, this need not be a very formal conversation, but maybe on a dog walk, or while doing the washing up. Also some children might prefer to talk via text or email.
Encourage ambitions – having realistic ambitions gives children something to strive for, something positive to focus on. Talk to children about what they might want to achieve, and support them with their ambitions.
Nurture confidence – children need to know they are loved, they are special and that you are proud of them. Even when you might be upset or confused by your child’s behaviour, do all you can to remind them of that to build their confidence.

Support
Think Good Feel Good provides a range of tools, through schools, which can either be provided as whole school approaches, through smaller groups or on a one to one basis. They can cover grief, loss, change, separation, anxiety, self-esteem, confidence, managing anger and many other aspects of mental health and wellbeing. More information on the tools available can be found here.

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