Children's Mental Health Week: Tips to support your own family
This week is Children’s Mental Health Week. It presents an important opportunity for charities who do vital work in this area to raise awareness among us all.
Set up by children’s mental health charity Place2Be, the week shines a spotlight on the importance of children and young people’s mental health.
Of course, children’s mental health is something we should be thinking about every week.
Just last week, the Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield reported that we were ‘a decade away' from decent mental health services for all children, despite years of government announcements.
So while, as a country, we are a long way from providing the proper services our children need, we can at least look to ourselves, our own children, and our own families, and consider - how are we? How are we coping with life? And how can we better support our own mental health as a family?
Solution-focused therapy is a great technique to use when having a conversation with your family, as it’s all about focusing on positives and looking at our strengths as individuals. It’s about using positive language, asking each other what we want, and listening well. It is a particularly effective when used with children and young people, and is endorsed by the NSPCC.
You can try the solution-focused technique at home with your own children. Focus on asking questions, highlighting each other’s strengths and talking about what your child can do, rather than what they can’t.
The solution-focused approach makes several positive assumptions:
Every person is unique
Every person has existing strengths and resilience
Every person is an expert in themselves
A person is not defined by their problems
Change is possible - and it is happening all the time!
Here are some tips for holding a positive, solution focused conversation with your child:
Don’t occupy yourself with prejudgements or existing problems
Listen out for strengths and reinforce these by highlighting the resources and competence of your children
Avoid asking ‘why?’ - young people don’t always know why!
Try to ask ‘what?’ instead - ‘what would you like to be happening?’
Do not give advice, ask questions instead
Remember to see them as experts in themselves
The theme for this year’s Children’s Mental Health Week is ‘find your brave’. This is a great one, as children are so often brave! It’s hard being a kid and so many manage and cope every day - they don’t even now how brave they are.
As the Children’s Mental Health Week website says, ‘Life often throws challenges our way. Bravery isn’t about coping alone or holding things in. It’s about finding positive ways to deal with things that might be difficult, overcoming physical and mental challenges and looking after yourself.’
We all have times when we need to ‘find our brave’.
Let’s remember that our children’s mental health is important this week, next week, and every week.