This week is Children’s Mental Health Week (lasting from 1st – 7th February). It was established by Place2Be, a children’s mental health charity, and shines a spotlight on the importance of children and young people’s mental health.
This week usually serves as a great reminder of the importance of speaking about mental health, and introduces children and young people to resources and vocabulary that can help them work through anxiety, depression, bereavement and other mental health issues. Around three children in every primary school class have a mental health concern. This is a figure concerning in itself, and the conversation surrounding the mental health of young people is now more important than ever.
The past 12 months have left children around the globe facing issues most adults struggle to cope with: long periods of being indoors, being unable to see friends and other support networks, and uncertainty and confusion surrounding the future. The regular schedule of school has been disrupted since the start of the year, and this disruption is likely to continue until at least March 8th. Lockdown and social distancing restrictions have brought about significant changes to the lives of children and young people, especially to those areas of life that significantly affect mental health. With many changes likely to continue for some time, it is important children and young people are encouraged to find new ways to look after their mental health and wellbeing.
The theme of this year’s Children’s Mental Health Week is “Express Yourself”. The aim is to encourage children – and their parents – to find ways to express feelings, thoughts and ideas through creativity.
Self-expression may not come naturally to all of us – and may be as difficult for parents as it is for children. Being able to express who we are and how we see the world can help us to feel better about ourselves, as it allows us to share our identity and individuality with others.
It is easy to be influenced by how we believe we should act and think and to feel negative because of the comparisons we make between ourselves and others. Creative self-expression (through art, reading, music or acting, for example) can allow children to articulate their own feelings and anxieties in a way they may not otherwise have the terminology for.
How to get involved
Place2Be has provided ample resources for parents and teachers to utilise during their homeschooling and remote learning efforts, which includes virtual sessions, assemblies and activities for children to take part in and explore and learn more about mental health and self-expression.
The ethos behind mental health awareness is to empower those who may be otherwise unable to express their own struggles. Teaching children to recognise stress and anxiety and how to regulate these feelings, as well as encouraging creative self-expression, can foster a sense of understanding, validation and belonging that helps to cope with and regulate negative or overwhelming emotions.
Wellness during lockdown
Dr Anedra shares some of her tips for lifting mood and reducing stress during lockdown:
One of the key things to remember when encouraging your child to take part in these activities is that the goal is finding a way for your child to feel good about themselves. They should not feel pressured to perform or be the best at something, but rather find a way to pursue something they are passionate about, that helps them to articulate their thoughts and ideas.