July 24, 2016
Life can be stressful at the best of times: even, for example, when you’re on holiday. Add children to the mix, and the result can be even more spectacular! So it’s little wonder, perhaps, that children are feeling the stress too. According to a recent study, one in ten children, aged five to 16 years, had a mental health problem that warranted support and treatment. To make matters worse, children who suffer mental health problems are more likely to develop longterm conditions in later life. So what, if anything, can parents and childcarers do to help? According to the experts, supportive relationships between adults and children, as well as a positive outlook on life, can go a long way towards making childhood less stressful. Here are a few of their tips:
All children require strong emotional attachment with parents and carers in order to feel safe and secure in an often unfamiliar world. This is particularly true during the first three years of a child’s life. This requires clear lines of communication between carers and children, as well as consistent boundaries. Parents and carers need to know when a child requires help and reassurance, and, conversely, when a child needs space.
Parents and childcarers have a huge influence on the outlook of the children under their care. Therefore, it stands to reason, that happy and positive attitudes towards life among adults are likely to be emulated by children. Unfortunately, however, the opposite is also true. Therefore, it’s important that parents and carers maintain a good network of support (e.g. friends, colleagues, partners, family and even parenting classes) and don’t become socially isolated.
Modern family life can be very busy, rushing around from one activity to another—with the constant fear of being late! As well as generating stress in its own right, too many activities, according to the experts, can overburden children with the expectations of adults. Children also need time to be children, as discussed in our previous article on play. Imaginative play is a critical activity for developing both emotional self-awareness, as well as the language necessary to express it. It’s during moments of unstructured downtime that children are also most likely to open up and confide their feelings to adults.
Life isn’t easy and few things go according to plan. Therefore, in order to survive, we need to be emotionally resilient. Fortunately, this is a lesson that many children can teach each other, through imaginative play—provided their lives aren’t overly structured! However, parents and carers can also help by stepping back when life gets frustrating. Sometimes we’re all stronger when we work things out for ourselves.
The last bit of advice comes from the NHS, which promotes mental well-being by encouraging everyone to aspire to achieving the following five activities every day: being mindful, connecting, exercising, learning something new and giving to others. This advice can also apply to children. In other words, all children should be encouraged to give, share, learn, play and generally run around having fun every day! That sounds good to me!
Rob Hodgkison, Harmony at Home Limited. All Rights Reserved, 2016