With Melinda

Single mum lifestyle blogger

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Caring for our mental health applies to children as much as it does adults. The earlier good mental health is practiced, the less likely a child will suffer from conditions such as ADHD, anxiety, and depression. By bringing awareness to our children’s mental health, we can help give our children the courage to say ‘My voice matters’. Help your child by taking part in Children’s Mental Health Week 24, 5th – 11th February.

It is now a staggering fact that one in eight children in the UK has a mental health disorder. In the US, 17.4% of children are diagnosed with a mental, behavioural, or developmental disorder, between the ages of two and eight. These statistics should highlight to us parents the importance of paying attention to more than our child’s physical health and education. It is time to give their mental and emotional health a seat at the table.

4 Pillars of mental health

Our overall mental state is influenced by 4 pillars of health. These are physical, emotional, cognitive, and social health. When these four areas are in a healthy balance, an individual is likely to have good mental health. Each pillar is important, so it is a good idea to nurture each of them for yourself and your child.  

Mental health

This includes being aware of your thoughts. Manage your stress, keep a balance in your mind, have positive thoughts and be aware if you are going through a rough patch. Seek help if needed.

Emotional health

This pillar is all about understanding your emotions and your reactions to situations. Learn how to express your emotions healthily, how to respond to situations and build resilience where needed.

Social health

It is important to have a network of family and friends around us. Don’t forget to nurture these relationships, keep in touch, and make time for social occasions. These people will become your support network when needed.

Physical health

The connection between this pillar and mental health is a strong one. By keeping your body active and fit, you are reducing the likelihood of mental illness. Exercise regularly, establish a healthy sleep pattern and eat well.

My voice matters

Comprehensive mental health

When mental health is mentioned, most of us imagine problems. Which demonstrates the stigma this part of our health now has. However, most of us possess good mental health. But what is good mental health and how would we recognise it? Below are the key characteristics of what is defined as ‘good mental health’.

  • Being able to cope with life
  • Making the most of your potential
  • Having a valid and fulfilling part in your community, family, and friendships

These points are just as valid for children as they are for adults. Their world is smaller than ours and they rely heavily on the adults in their lives. But they need to fulfill these areas to have good mental health. Issues in children are often overlooked or put down to them ‘just being children’. By learning about mental health, we can ensure our children have the best tools to grow up healthy and learn to believe that ‘My voice matters’.

Children’s mental health statistics

Behavior problems are most common in 6-11 year old’s. Depression and anxiety are likely to increase as this age group gets older. 70% of this age group who suffer from poor mental health have not had suitable intervention at an early age. The reason for this is rooted in culture, background, and attitudes towards mental health.

What is poor mental health?

It is believed that half of an adult’s mental health problems begin before the age of 14. Consequently, if poor mental health in a child is not recognised or treated, it may go on to affect them for the rest of their lives. But how do we recognise mental health issues in a child?

Types of poor mental health in a child

Depression

This is a low mood that keeps returning and affects a person’s everyday life. In children, it can be caused by a variety of factors. These include but are not limited to poor family mental health, trauma, abuse, bullying, and negative family situations.

Anxiety

This is a feeling of unease, that keeps returning. It is normal to experience some anxiety in certain situations but if it keeps coming back then it can be a problem. It can be caused by trauma, a bad family situation, bullying, abuse, a big transition and more.

Trauma

This is defined as a deeply disturbing and distressing incident. Again, it can be caused by a variety of factors. These include a long illness or death of a family member, abuse, bullying or an incident such as a car accident.

Impact of ADHD and Autism – these conditions are not mental health problems in themselves but do increase the chance of developing one.

Behaviour changes

As adults, we can recognise when we are not feeling well mentally. Children may not be able to do so which means they will not tell us something is wrong. It is important that as a parent we know what their normal behaviour is like and can recognise when something is changing.

Depression and anxiety changes to look out for

Irritability, sadness, lack of confidence, less sociable, less able to sleep, not eating as well, not wanting to see friends, not doing as well at school, being clingy, wetting the bed, and change of behaviour.

Trauma changes to look out for

More than normal awareness of surroundings, anxiety, trembling, nightmares, irritability, trouble sleeping, and conditions such as diarrhoea or palpitations.

My voice matters

A child’s family can have a huge effect on shaping personality, beliefs, and mental health. A child has a fragile ego that needs nurturing in order for it to develop correctly. If an adult in the family has mental health issues, there is a possibility this will impact the child’s development.

Being a parent is a hard job at the best of times. Whilst the joys of parenting are widely talked about, the huge responsibility of teaching a child about life, shaping them for society, and how to interact with others is not mentioned much. It can be a daunting perspective for adults who have a good support network and mental health. Imagine how tricky it could be for those that don’t. Adults need to know that ‘My voice matters’ as much as children.

Emotional health vs mental health

A child cannot always fully express themselves or even recognise what they are feeling. To decipher emotions in yourself and know what has caused them takes a certain level of maturity. When a child is young, it is up to their parents to teach them about emotions, respect, interaction, etc. This is often done by example and realising how much our children’s mental health matters.

A person’s emotional health is their level of happiness and satisfaction in life. This is in contrast to their mental health which has more to do with the issues affecting their cognitive function. A person with good emotional health has healthy coping skills that help them when faced with a difficult circumstance. Like mental health, emotional health will develop in childhood and will affect their ability to deal with any mental health issues that arise.

children's mental health my voice matters

Children’s Mental health week

This year, Place2Be, a mental health charity for young people has themed Children’s Mental week as ‘My voice matters’. In our busy lives, it is easy for a child’s voice to not be heard. This week shines a light on your child’s mental health and teaches parents and schools the knowledge and skills needed to recognise when and why your child is suffering. By getting them the help they need, you are reducing the risk of them having poor mental health as an adult. This way, they know that ‘My voice matters’

10 positive mental health habits

By teaching and encouraging your child to have positive mental health habits, you are not only making them aware of their mental health but are also fostering a positive mental future. These are good habits to be practiced by both adults and children.

  • Exercise – the link between good mental and physical health is a strong one so get moving with your child.
  • Sleep – we all know that children thrive on a routine so set bed-times according to their age and adjust it if they are still tired in the morning.
  • Family time – listen to their social needs by arranging both family and friend time. As they develop friends, they will start forming a social network they can rely on.
  • Manage stress – make sure your child has downtime away from school work. Set up a routine for any homework and listen if they complain of stress.
  • Encourage hobbies – By encouraging children to have interests, you are encouraging social stimulation. This allows your child to express the artistic side of their personality.
  • Routine – set a routine with your child. Children feel more secure when they have a routine and know what will happen daily.
  • Manage family conflict – if your child grows up with constantly arguing and hostile parents, they will think this is normal. Demonstrate to your child that disagreements can be resolved by talking and without hostility. Your child will feel more secure and will also learn how to communicate well.
  • Healthy diet – eating the right foods helps our bodies and brains. A possible activity for you and your child to do together is cook. This helps form an important social bond and also teaches your child the importance of good food.
  • Listening – you and your child need to listen to each other. This promotes a healthy relationship where you feel your needs are being listened to. It could also help to spot any issues as they arise.
  • Be a role model – your behaviour and whether you practice what you preach will be modelled by your child. They are far more likely to listen to you if they see you adapting the behaviour and lessons yourself.

Place2Be have plenty of resources for both parents and schools to take part in Children’s Mental Heath week. By listening to our children and encouraging them to show us how they feel and tell us what they need, we can help build them a future that includes healthy mental health. Don’t leave it until next year, start today to make a difference. Help your child believe that, ‘My voice matters’.

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