Well-being and mental health
Over the last two school years, we have been working with our families, our children, and our staff to support their mental health both whilst in school and at home. We recognise that things are not ‘normal’ in school. When things are not perceived as ‘normal’ it can make people anxious and raise stress levels. Over time this can have an adverse effect on our well-being and our mental health.
Although we continue to undertake thorough risk assessments and make time to listen to all in our community we realise that by sharing and talking we can work together to try to make things more comfortable for all. Feeling concerned and anxious is entirely normal when we’re faced with such an unusual situation.
Taking care of our mental health and well-being will allow us to be in a better position to support ourselves and others to cope with the challenges we face.
We all have mental health.
Mental health is about our feelings, our thinking, our emotions and our moods. Looking after our mental health is important. We all have small feelings every day; these can sometimes feel strong and overwhelming, whether happy or sad, but they go away before too long. Sometimes we experience big feelings; these feel strong and overwhelming for a long time. They stop us doing what we want to in our lives.
Sometimes it is hard to start a conversation when we are not sure where it will lead us.
Tips for talking to your child about their Mental Health
1. Make conversations about mental health a normal part of life: Anywhere is a good place to talk; in the car, walking the dog or cooking together. Model everyday talk about feelings such as by talking about a TV character’s feelings.
2. Give your full attention: We all know it’s horrible to be half-listened to. Keep eye contact, focus on the child and ignore distractions.
3. Check your body language: Try to keep it open and relaxed and make sure you come down to the child’s level.
4. Take it seriously: Don’t downplay what the child is saying or tell them they’re “just being silly”. Resist the urge to reassure them that everything is fine.
5. Ask open questions: Such as “How did your day go today?” This will help to extend the conversation.
6. Calmly stay with the feelings that arise: It can be our automatic reaction to steer away from difficult emotions.
7. Offer empathy rather than solutions: Show that you accept what they are telling you but don’t try to solve the problem.
8. Remember we are all different: Respect and value the child’s feelings, even though they may be different to yours.
9. Look for clues about feelings: Listen to the child’s words, tone of voice, and body language.
10. Some ways to start a conversation about feelings might be: “How are you feeling at the moment?” “You don’t seem your usual self. Do you want to talk about it?” “Do you fancy a chat?” “I’m happy to listen if you need a chat.
The NHS has put together some great resources to help families- the links below have a wealth of information that we all may find useful.
Be there to listen
Regularly ask how they're doing so they get used to talking about their feelings and know there's always someone to listen if they want it. Find out how to create a space where they will open up.
How to start a conversation with your child
Support them through difficulties
Pay attention to their emotions and behaviour, and try to help them work through difficulties. It's not always easy when faced with challenging behaviour, but try to help them understand what they're feeling and why.
Help with difficult behaviour and emotions
Stay involved in their life
Show interest in their life and the things important to them. It not only helps them value who they are but also makes it easier for you to spot problems and support them.
Encourage their interests
Being active or creative, learning new things and being a part of a team help connect us with others and are important ways we can all help our mental health. Support and encourage them to explore their interests, whatever they are.
Take what they say seriously
Listening to and valuing what they say, without judging their feelings, in turn makes them feel valued. Consider how to help them process and work through their emotions in a more constructive way.
The Anna Freud Centre support guide
Build positive routines
We know it still may not be easy, but try to reintroduce structure around regular routines, healthy eating and exercise. A good night's sleep is also really important – try to get them back into routines that fit with school or college.
Activities and ideas to get the talking started!
Carrying a positive sense of calm in the palm of your hand
1. First ask your child to trace their hand on a sheet of paper.
2. The child then thinks of a positive memory that would help them feel safe and calm to remember even in the midst of stressful and triggering situations.
3. Write each of the five senses (seeing, hearing, tasting, touching, smelling) on each of the five fingers.
4. The child (or adult can write it down for the child) will draw and / or write about the memory in the palm of the hand.
5. Encourage your child to identify how the memory is experienced using each of the five senses on each finger and write or draw a picture for each.
6. Last but not least, talk about how thinking of this memory can help your child feel a sense of safety and inner calmness despite outer life circumstances.
This website from the NHS offers expert advice and practical tips to help you look after your child’s mental health and wellbeing as well as the rest of the family. https://www.nhs.uk/oneyou/every-mind-matters/