A Letter from Mrs Howcroft – Our Family Learning Mentor.
As the school’s Family Learning Mentor, I often receive calls from parents asking for advice around their child’s wellbeing and emotional health and so, as this is World Mental Health Day, I wanted to share some information which I hope will be useful to you all.
With a growing number of mental health issues in children, it is understandable that as parents we want to help. Latest statistics show that 1 in 10 children are affected with a mental health issue such as anxiety, depression and conduct disorder. In school that equates to three children in every class.
What can we do?
First, we need to take a moment of reflection, as parents we lead busy lives, school run, work, after school activities, housework, homework- the list goes on I’m exhausted just typing all this. Are we looking after ourselves? There is a reason the airhostess tells us to put on our oxygen masks first, we cannot help our children if we are not helping ourselves. Parenting is hard, so take a minute, find time in your day to relax and really think, what have I done today to look after me?
Reconnect with our children put down the phone, laptop and switch that television off. Listen to them when they speak, I can count many times my boys have had a conversation with me whilst I was doing the dishes. Was I really listening? No I was too busy thinking, what else do I have to do tonight? Stop, look at your child hear what they are saying. We often think our children tell us things so we can help solve them. Children do not need us to fix all their problems and by doing this we are not teaching them to problem solve independently. We are teaching them that it is ok “mummy or daddy will sort it”.
All behaviour comes from a feeling, listen when they are telling us things. Find the feeling behind what they are saying and state it. “It seems to me like you might be feeling...” “I wonder if you are feeling…” If you have the wrong emotion, they will tell you. By doing this you are opening a conversation with your child and the likelihood is they will tell you more but also they feel appreciated and understood. Asking children questions like “I wonder how you might handle that differently next time?” allow them to reflect and next time an issue comes up they are more likely to remember a different way to manage the situation independently. This promotes self-confidence and self-esteem, which in turn will reduce anxiety in children.
It is amazing how much brighter we feel after seeing our children smile and laugh. Play a game, take a walk, have a cuddle you will be surprised as to how much conversation this encourages. Offer your child information about your day, what you had to eat, something you found difficult. We are our children’s role models they need to know we find things hard too.
As a school we are committed to using the Family Links approach, this is a nurturing course for children and parents and over the following weeks in our school newsletter I will share information about what the children have been learning in class and key top tips. The programme teaches children life skills and helps build resilience through recognising their emotions- this will support our children to become well-rounded adults and allow them to cope with whatever life throws their way.
I hope to run the Family Links parents course in the near future, please let me know if you are interested.
Mental health is just as important as physical health. So take care of yourselves!
Happy World Mental Health Day.