Expert Insights on Children’s Mental Health: Understanding and Supporting Young Minds
As children return to school, it’s being reported that more than ever before are suffering from poor mental health. Some children may be struggling with issues at home, such as parental conflict or abuse, while others may be dealing with problems at school or in their social relationships. Some children may have underlying genetic predispositions or neurological vulnerabilities that make them more prone to mental health problems.
The first thing to note is that it’s no one’s ‘fault’. Whilst there may be things that can be done to help mitigate poor mental health, there are times when nothing seems to work, and that can be hard for parents to cope with. Blame doesn’t help anyone so focus on supporting your child and helping them recover.
It’s one thing to understand why children may be struggling with their mental health, but as a parent, you want to know what you can do to support your child and ideally even prevent mental ill health if possible.
There are a number of things you can do to support your child’s mental health:
- Be there for your child: Show your child that you are available to listen and support them, and encourage them to talk about their feelings and concerns.
- Encourage healthy coping mechanisms: Help your child develop healthy ways of dealing with stress and difficult emotions, such as through exercise, hobbies, or talking to a trusted friend or family member.
- Keep an eye on your child’s well-being: Pay attention to your child’s behaviour and mood, and be alert for signs of distress or changes in their functioning. It is easier to deal with snowflakes than avalanches.
- Encourage a healthy lifestyle: Help your child maintain a healthy diet, get enough sleep, and engage in regular physical activity, as these things can all contribute to good mental health.
But it’s not all down to the parents. There are several things that can be done in school to address the increase in mental health issues. Including:
- Schools can provide additional support and resources for students, such as counselling services, social-emotional learning programs, and mental health education.
- Schools can work to create a positive and inclusive school culture, where students feel safe, supported, and valued, and teach coping skills and stress management techniques as part of the curriculum.
- Schools can promote resilience by teaching students how to bounce back from setbacks and challenges, and by helping them develop a growth mindset.
- Schools can work with parents and the broader community to address the mental health needs of students and create a supportive environment.
So talk to your school about what’s in place and if necessary, get a parent’s group together to support the school’s efforts. There’s no shame in asking for help so do seek professional help where needed. This could be in the form of therapy, counselling, or medication, depending on your child’s needs. Further guidance can be found from charities such as the Place 2 Be , and Young Minds.