Even at the best of times, children and young people face many challenges as they grow up that can make it difficult to maintain good mental health. Today, young people also have to cope with a global pandemic – and the difficulties and uncertainties that come with it.
Current events are negatively affecting every aspect of a young person’s life, including their social lives, hobbies, schooling and home life too. Many people will tell them that their youth is the best time in their life, but they are spending theirs indoors and missing out on the life and experiences offered to the young people before. Additionally, many young people have not developed enough resilience and coping skills to adequately protect their mental health during such a life-altering event.
We all want to support our children and young people, but it can be difficult to know the best ways to do so when we’re struggling with this ‘new normal’ ourselves. Here are some of our top tips for supporting your child’s wellbeing during COVID-19:
Practise the Five Ways to Wellbeing
Research has demonstrated that increasing physical activity, socialisation, giving, noticing and learning are simple ways to improve wellbeing (https://dorsetmind.uk/help-and-support/self-care-resources/five-ways-to-wellbeing). Encourage your child to take part in and increase these postive behaviours by providing opportunities to practise them. Try facilitating a nature photography walk or learn a new skill with your child, and help them incorporate other relevant activities into their routine.
Listen without judgement
You do not need the ‘right answers’ to comfort your child; just provide the space for them to share their concerns freely. Listen to them talk without interrupting, and avoid trying to force a positive mindset on them. Pressuring them to ‘think positively’ may make them think they can’t come to you with negative thoughts. Make it clear that you are there for them, even when they are feeling darker emotions, and don’t pressure them to feel a certain way. Let them know it is OK to feel like this, and that you will always love them regardless.
Speak honestly with your child
It can be tempting to try to protect our children from everything bad in the world, but depending on their age, this can do more harm than good. If they are old enough to understand, talk to them honestly about the pandemic, and the things that are unknown. In this media heavy world, they will hear negative news regardless. If you talk to them about things first, they will know that you are trustworthy and that they can come to with questions, instead of relying on other unreliable sources. Remember, it is OK not to know all the answers, but own this honestly.
Seek further support if necessary
Even though many services are currently reduced and stretched, there are helplines, text numbers and online services available to access if your child needs further support with their mental health. If you are unable to visit your GP in person, book an online or telephone appointment to discuss their mental health. Additionally, you can visit dorsetmindyourhead.co.uk to learn more about available services and resources you could access to support your child’s mental health.
Look after yourself
This has been a difficult year for parents. It can be easy to overlook your own wellbeing and prioritise that of your family. But remember that you will be able to support them better if you are feeling well yourself.
Make time for yourself and the things that make you happy. Try to keep up with regular exercise, self-care sessions and enjoyable activities, such as a luxurious bubble bath or reading your favourite book. Be kind to yourself and remember that being a parent means you need to just do your best to support your child; it does not mean you need to be invincible.
We can help!
Dorset Mind can help provide support for local people in Dorset. We are not a crisis service but can signpost to additional support and national helplines.
We offer a wide range of 1-2-1 and group support for adults here, and children and young people, their parents and teachers at dorsetmindyourhead.co.uk. Both websites contain useful resources and information about mental health and how you can look after your own wellbeing.
Our guest this week is Dorset Mind Ambassador and Assitant, Lucy Lewis – thanks Lucy!