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Image for Helping the Mental Health of our Children

Article by Caroline Knight | 1st January 2018

Helping the Mental Health of our Children

It seems that around 82% of head teachers have noticed an increase in mental issues such as anxiety and panic attacks amongst pupils. According to the Mental Health Foundation, a charity that carries out research and campaigns to improve services for people affected by mental health issues, around one in 10 young people has mental health problems during their school years.

It seems that around 82% of head teachers have noticed an increase in mental issues such as anxiety and panic attacks amongst pupils. According to the Mental Health Foundation, a charity that carries out research and campaigns to improve services for people affected by mental health issues, around one in 10 young people has mental health problems during their school years.

Many more children are now being raised in homes where a family member has been diagnosed with a mental illness, but parents are often unaware of their children’s angst.

The key to helping children cope with their problems is communication between parent or carer and the child – including encouraging an awareness of how they are feeling and trying to pinpoint why.

Isabelle Campbell, Wellbeing Advisor from CABA, a charity that supports chartered accountants and their families, urges parents to enable their children to offload their problems on a regular basis. This includes helping children to understand why they might want to shout or lash out and explaining what anger is. As children learn about their emotional responses they begin to understand about mental health and wellbeing.

“It’s really important to make sure children feel safe talking to their parents about what they’re feeling. They’ll go through a lot of emotions at a young age: they can get deeply upset about not being allowed to play with friends, or very angry about having to brush their teeth, as at the time these things feel like the end of the world,” explains Isabelle.

“When these kinds of situations occur, it’s really important to encourage the labelling of emotions so that they can develop an understanding of these feelings. Some children may end up using sensations or colours to describe what they’re going through as they don’t yet have the words – that’s perfectly okay, as that’s what developing emotional awareness is all about: learning to label and understand these sensations. Helping them to develop emotional language is the ultimate goal – as if they develop their own understanding, they’ll be better prepared to handle their own mental health as time goes on.”

As parents it’s important to avoid getting cross if your child seems unwilling to communicate or is acting up because they feel emotional. It’s really beneficial to adopt regular ‘safe’ activities that give children a chance to chat. This could be simply walking the dog or cooking together or for younger children, activities like bath time or bedtime are also great moments to try to talk. During these times, parents need to focus on listening and making disclosure feel like a safe activity for their offspring.

Talking about mental health normalises something that often carries a stigma and most children feel both physically and mentally better after offloading.

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