1 in 6 children and young people have a diagnosable mental health problem, so it is vital that we educate our children about mental health and how to look after it.
Mental health does not discriminate, and children can feel it in the same way as adults, just with different triggers. In adulthood there are more situations that can cause stress, such as work or financial issues, whereas young people may be more likely to experience difficulties with bullying or social expectations.
Here are some of the common mental health problems that children and young people can suffer with:
- Anxiety – intense or constant feelings of worry and nervousness for no rational reason.
- Depression – regular low mood and withdrawal from activities that were once enjoyed.
- Eating disorder – concern about what is being eaten, negative body image and the need to control food in a harmful way.
- PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) – A response to a traumatic event in the past, this can make people feel on edge, unable to trust others, and experience distressing flashbacks.
(Please note: this list is just a handful of mental health issues young people can suffer with. If you are concerned about your child’s mental health, please seek help from their GP or school)
The past 2 years have been incredibly challenging, especially for children who have had routines disrupted and social activities taken away. It is important that children learn to talk about their feelings from a young age so they do not feel alone with big emotions they may struggle to manage.
It can feel difficult to talk to your child about how they are feeling, especially if you think they are having a tough time. But giving them the opportunity to talk offers them the space to chat about how they are feeling, and it doesn’t have to be a serious face-to-face discussion. Make it fun!
- Get creative or play a game – it might be easier for your child to talk to you if they are doing something they enjoy. Have a kick about or try creating something together, there are so many things you can do that are fun for everyone!
- Try our activity sheet to help get your child talking (download at end of page)
- Play the Hi-Low game – start a routine of asking your child their ‘High’ and ‘Low’ of the day. This gives them the opportunity to tell you about something that might be bothering them but also allows them to tell you something good that happened that day.
- Let nature help – getting outside is beneficial for so many reasons and has been proven to have a calming affect on the mind. This may help your child to feel better and encourage them to talk to you.
Whilst you are involved in an activity, try some of these conversation starters by YoungMinds:
- What was the best bit of your day?
- What was the worst bit of your day?
- What did you do today that made you proud?
- How are you feeling?
- What would you like to talk about?
It is a good idea to offer them someone else to talk to. They may not feel ready to tell you what they are feeling, but someone removed for the situation might make them feel more comfortable.
It is important to validate how your child is feeling, to make sure they feel they have been seen and heard. Let them know that you are always there for them and thank them for sharing their thoughts with you – this is a great way of encouraging them to open up more often. Show them resources they can access (if they are old enough); it may be helpful to read about what they are experiencing.
Mental health is not an easy topic to talk about, but it is time to make it easier.
We need to help our children grow and show them how they can support others. This all starts with a simple conversation.
Let’s work together to make a change.
To find out more about Place2Be’s Children’s Mental Health Week 2022, head over to Children’s Mental Health Week for advice on how to get involved.