Many schools run sessions for parents on issues of pastoral concern. Here at Gabbitas, we want to support our clients in every aspect of parenting. We have unparalleled expertise in finding schools for children with special needs, be it dyslexia, ADHD, Asperger’s or depression. We’ve also compiled a list here of recommendations on how to support children if you, as a parent, think they might have mental health issues.
1. Encourage conversation
In a world of emojis, acronyms and abbreviations, it’s important to take some time out to talk to your child, without overwhelming or intimidating them. Be casual when you first start the conversation and let them speak, without voicing too many of your own opinions. That way, you will make sure that they tell you how they feel, rather than what they think you’d like to hear.
The conversation doesn’t necessarily have to be about mental health – it’s just about making them feel comfortable with talking to you so that, if something does start upsetting or worrying them, they know they can turn to you. Talking to your child about mental health is a good thing and if they want to discuss it with you, all the better. The more secure they feel about talking to you, about problems big or small, the more likely they are to be open.
2. Be patient
The thought that your child’s mental wellbeing might be suffering is undoubtedly hugely worrying for a parent, and this worry can often turn to frustration and feelings of helplessness. However, it is important to wait until your child is ready to share. It can take them some time to open-up, acknowledge their feelings and be able to articulate them fully. They might feel ashamed or embarrassed. It is important that you don’t push them and let them talk to you when they are comfortable, not because they are pressurised to do so. Patience can be especially difficult for parents, as they want to help and might feel frustrated at times, but try to persevere and remain calm. Meantime, talk to someone yourself, share your thoughts in confidence with a close friend or family member, who can offer support and advice.
3. Be present
It can be difficult at times to balance work and parenthood at the same time as worrying about your child’s wellbeing. However, it is essential that you carve out a bit of time each day to just be one-on-one with your child, whether it is simply to talk or do something fun. Switch off your phone, ignore any emails and just focus on quality time together.
4. Don’t overreact
There’s no doubt that being a modern teenager is tough, but it’s important to identify the difference between adolescent phases and other, more permanent, issues. While it is natural for a parent to be worried about their child, it is also vital to remember that children will go through stages as they experience new emotions. They might be adapting to a new change in their life, perhaps it is a new school, a new circle of friends or even a small change in their routine. Often, with the right support from their family, children’s behaviours can change and go back to how they were. Be sure to monitor changes in your child’s behaviour over time as, if you do end up having cause for concern, this will help identify any possible patterns in their moods.
5. Look after yourself
Remember that you are the ultimate role model for children, and that includes leading by example when it comes to mental health and general wellbeing. It will also do you some good, too. Look after your own mental health, as that can only have a positive impact on your family. Similarly, think about how you show your own emotions of anger and distress in front of your kids, as they are likely to take a lot of behavioural cues from you.
6. Make sure your child gets enough sleep
A recent survey showed that just 15% of British teenagers report getting enough sleep, relaxation and exercise. These three things are crucial to a healthy mind set, so be sure to instil the importance of these factors in your children. The issue of sleep is the focus for this year’s Mental Health Week May 18-24 2020
7. Seek help
If you have persistent worries about your child, then it is important to do something about it. Often, it can be enough to ask your child what they think might help them to feel better and to implement the change. However, they may be unwilling to speak to you about their problems or they don’t know themselves what could help. If you are deeply concerned, you should visit your GP – your child can have a one-on-one meeting with them, or you can talk about your concerns and ask for some guidance. Alternatively, discuss your concerns with your child’s teacher or school, they may be able to offer your child support during the week.
There are also many charities and organisations which offer information and support to parents and young people that are worried or affected. Some also have helplines that you can contact and speak to someone directly. Amongst them:
- Mind https://www.mind.org.uk/
- Young Minds https://youngminds.org.uk/
- Sane http://www.sane.org.uk/
- Heads Together https://www.headstogether.org.uk/
- Minds Ahead https://www.mindsahead.org.uk/
- Place2Be https://www.place2be.org.uk/our-story.aspx
Also, check out the personal development and mental health app Remente https://www.remente.com/