Children’s Mental Health Week: Tips to help manage feelings of worry and anxiety amongst young children
The recent government announcement regarding the continuation of school closures until 8th March at the earliest has left a huge amount of uncertainty amongst parents and children. For nearly a year now, families have had to engage in remote learning and the toll that this has created is starting to show. Home-schooling can be tough for all; it’s difficult to concentrate, there’s emotional exhaustion and a general feeling of boredom. Not only that, but the pandemic is also having a profound psychological impact on children, often leaving them feeling unmotivated and anxious about the situation and their future.
In October 2020, the Office for National Statistics conducted a survey that showed that one in six children aged 5 to 16 years were identified as having a probable mental disorder. To put this into context, that is five children in a class of 30 children. This has increased significantly since 2017, where one in nine children were identified as having a probable mental disorder. Whilst it’s not possible to say this increase is wholly due to the pandemic, the research also found four in ten 11 to 16 year olds felt that lockdown had made their life worse.
In light of this week being ‘Children’s Mental Health Week’, Quintessentially Education spoke to Nathalie Costa, award winning confidence coach and founder of Power Thoughts, about her strategies and advice on how to support yourself and your children when it comes to managing those worries and anxieties in these uncertain times. In addition to taking care of your own mental health, it is important that parents create an environment where children feel they can cope; here are some strategies that can help.
- Allow your child the space to talk about their concerns
So often, parents are reluctant to bring up certain difficult and tough subjects with their children, because of not wanting to upset them or make them worried, when really, the very best thing we can do as parents is to talk openly and allow a space for them to let out what is on their mind. When it comes to younger children, encouraging them to draw pictures about what makes them feel worried, will not only help them recognise what their worries are, but will also mean they are getting them out of their head and onto paper. This makes it easier to talk through what they might be thinking.
For older children, journaling or writing their worries down is also a great way to get these thoughts out of their head and into the open. When we give our children a space to open up and talk through their concerns, they can suddenly appear a lot less daunting.
- Be mindful of how much news you are consuming and search for the positive
Watching news, particularly at the moment, can become a little addictive, and not necessarily in a good way. It is important to be mindful of how much news you are consuming on a day-to-day basis and how this might be impacting your children. It is essential to stay informed, but you should also not let this negatively impact your thoughts and worries. When talking to your children about the news, it can be useful to reference some good news stories to counter all the negativity – who are the helpers and what are new and exciting inventions that are taking place that is perhaps not as frequently reported. This will help children shift that spotlight to the positive.
- Remind your children of the challenges they have already overcome during periods of change
Your children might be understandably worried about what life is going to look like when they finally go back to school. Whilst there are a lot of uncertainties, it is important to acknowledge these feelings with your children. As parents, you can talk about previous times they have gone through change, the challenges this brought and how they overcame them. What lessons can be learnt from this and what new skills did they acquire?
With little children, again, drawing pictures of these new skills is a useful exercise to help them. They can then refer back to their draws and remind themselves that they are resilient and are able to overcome difficult challenges.
For more information on ‘Children’s Mental Health Week’, and to listen to Royal Patron HRH The Duchess of Cambridge’s video message to mark the start of the week, go to Children’s Mental Health Week 2021.
If you are interested in enlisting the help of Nathalie Costa to better your child’s education environment, or for any other education related enquiries, please contact Quintessentially Education.