Children’s Wellbeing | Kids these days – they’ve got it made – or have they?
A few easy ideas to help with your child’s mental wellbeing.
I’m a primary school teacher and I’m a mum to a beautiful, bright and bubbly six-year-old. I witness the ups and downs of wellbeing in children every day. Every parent faces the same dilemma – how to ensure the wellbeing of our children – particularly from a mental health perspective in a world that is more pressure than ever in more ways than one.
I have my own worries, and they probably match yours if you’re also a mum of a child of any age. But I also have a few ideas to share with you that I practice with my daughter Lyla – exercises that help to ensure she communicates her thoughts and feelings with me so I can do my best to make sure that she’s ok.
Tested to the limit – exams for 6-year-olds
Life seemed so simple back in the 1990s when I was growing up. The only thing I had to worry about was whether my Tamagotchi would make it through the night if I forgot to feed it.
I certainly don’t ever remember having to do a test before I hit double numbers.
The pressure of targets, scores and age-related goals just weren’t on my radar when I was six. And I didn’t think they were on daughter Lyla’s until she wrote me a note in our ‘Letters Book’ penning her worried about her phonics screening test.
I’m a teacher myself and I’ve witnessed children crying due to the pressure of their SATs Exams. My husband Matt was shocked when I handed him a SATs practice paper and told him to have a stab at it one evening. He struggled with it!
The amount of work that’s got to be covered by these kids in such a short amount of time is crazy and it’s slowly wearing the poor little people down. I’m lucky – the school I teach in has a really balanced and varied timetable that includes plenty of art, sports and music but some schools don’t make time for anything other than English and Maths. All day long. For six-year-olds!? It’s soul-destroying for the kids and also the teachers.
Cyberbullying – every parent’s nightmare
Social Media – something else that wasn’t an issue when I was a nipper. As a teacher and a mum, it scares the life out of me. Back in the 1990s, before social media existed, if some nasty 10-year old took a disliking to another kid, most of the time that nastiness would take place in the school playground. A kick in the shin, a few insults about what trainers he/she was wearing, and, the cold shoulder. Come home time the poor kid was able to escape – go home to their safe place and have a little respite from the bullies. But social media has changed all that.
There’s no respite now. Mobile phones have made sure of that. However much schools try and control it, they can’t.
The thought of my little Lyla being sent nasty messages whilst she’s at home – the place that should be her safe place, her haven, makes me feel sick. But how do we handle these situations? We can’t fight every battle for them, but equally, we can’t sit back and watch our children being tormented and terrorized in the comfort of their own home.
Our children’s mental health – how do we keep it healthy?
Mental health, wellbeing, self-care, self-love – we’re all (myself included) looking for ways to improve our own mental wellbeing but what about the minds and wellbeing of our children?
According to youngminds.org “mental health issues in children are increasing while child wellbeing is deteriorating” and that terrifies me. We toilet train our offspring, we educate them on the benefits of their 5-a-day and the outcomes of too much sugar. We put plasters on their knees when they fall over and cut themselves, fill hot water bottles when they have an earache and advise them to wear weather-appropriate clothing so they don’t catch colds or get a sunburn. They know if they stay up all night they are inevitably going to be knackered the following day but an early night the following day more often than not sorts that out.
But educating them on how to look after their mental health is much trickier right?
Try it at home and help to keep your child’s mental wellbeing on track
(Disclaimer – I do not have a mental health nursing background, I’m absolutely no authority on mental wellbeing and sometimes I struggle with my own mental health but I am a mum; a teacher and someone who sees the value in looking after our own wellbeing).
The Letters Book
We started a ‘letters book’ earlier this. basically it a book that Lyla can write her thoughts and feelings in, in her own time and in her own words. It might be a subject that she may struggle to say out loud – stuff that’s bothering her or questions that she may have. She leaves in on my bedside table and I’ll reply to her questions, thoughts and feelings and leave it by her bed. We talk about all sorts, but this is agreat tool to help her along her way.
Cards of Reflection
Writing stuff down is a bit of a theme in our house. Lyla also enjoys responding to little cards of reflection that I leave out every now and then. They help her to reflect on her day.
Sit down, switch off and have tea
As often as we can, we sit down properly at the table and have our tea together (it might be ‘dinner’ in your neck of the woods). No TV, no tablets – no distractions of any kind. We use this opportunity to chat about her day and I then chat to her about the problems that I may have faced so she knows that everyone, even mummies and daddies – face regular difficulties in life. We discuss how I may have tackled hurdles in my day and in turn, we discuss any issues she may want to raise.
The best things in life are free. The Gift of Time
Some time ago I started what I call ‘The Gift of Time’ box for Lyla. Every month she gets to open an envelope which contains something that we’ll do together as a family. More often than not it’s outdoorsy stuff such as going on a mystery walk or having fish and chips somewhere outside whilst watching the sunset. The hope is that she recognises that the best things in life cost very little or nothing at all. Going for a good old long walk really helps to boost my mood, clears my head and uplifts my wellbeing. I want to pass all this information onto Lyla – I want her to appreciate the activities that will help boost her mood, lift her spirits and help her mental wellbeing too.
Kids might have opportunities galore and technology at their fingertips – stuff we never even dreamed of. But if their wellbeing isn’t nurtured and cared for, all these opportunities and technology will do is destroy them, so my advice to you is to go back to basics.
What do you do with your kids to help their personal wellbeing? We’d love to know.
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A year to the day and myself, my husband and our two children were midway through our 10th Wedding Anniversary trip of a lifetime to Sri Lanka and now this incredibly beautiful and captivating little country is in mourning.
Emma Stirk is a Business Success Coach and Legal strategist for small businesses, she left her corporate career as a high flying solicitor to set up her own business and has never looked back! Emma is passionate about empowering women to identify their purpose and goals, plan and strategise their next career or business move and create a positive, strong and confident mindset with high performance strategies to increase productivity and efficiency so you can work less, achieve more, and make burnout and overwhelm a thing of the past!
Jo Swann has 15 solid years of experience in Public Relations and runs award-winning Leeds-based PR Company – Chocolate PR after working in media, marketing and PR agencies. She has worked with companies of all sizes including the likes of Whistles, NSPCC, Marriot Hotels, Yo! Sushi to name just a few and won many awards along the way but her mission now is to help small businesses, and particularly female entrepreneurs harness the power of PR.