Joanne Hutchinson the author of three well-loved children’s books and ambassador for Children’s Mental Health Week. For this award-winning kindness advocate, helping children express themselves through creativity is an issue that’s close to her heart. In this guest blog, Joanne explores 6 ways to help your child’s mental wellbeing parents can do to help children cope with big emotions.
6 ways to help your child’s mental wellbeing
The theme this year for Children’s Mental Health Week is Express Yourself. I love this theme. It’s about being able to share thoughts, feelings, and ideas through activities that make you feel good.
It’s an ideal opportunity to get creative in a way that helps your child explore their emotions. You can be creative through role-play, building dens, drama, writing, baking, gardening, or playing a musical instrument, even if you’ve never played one.
The world is a confusing place for children at the best of times, so let their imaginations run free to help them process this. It’s also a great way to create a safe space for children to discuss difficult emotions.
How to listen
With this in mind, learn to listen. What works for you and what you enjoy may not work for your child. If your purpose is to get them to talk about their feelings, create an environment where they feel comfortable and willing to discuss what is on their mind and listen carefully, without judging.
It is not easy for children to articulate how are they feeling. They may talk about a problem but talking about how they feel about an issue is different. Try asking age-appropriate questions, which will give them the confidence to speak confidently and openly.
Little ways to cope with big emotions
So how can you help them if they’re upset? Calming down is hard when emotions are running high, so an excellent technique I’ve used since my children were little is grounding. We do this by connecting with the world around us while not focusing on what caused the upset in the first place. When this level of distress occurs, children lose the ability to communicate with the part of the brain responsible for making decisions and reasoning.
It is easier for the brain to engage when you focus on discovering the world around you by finding a new focus. How many different things you can hear? What can they smell? How many items can they see of a specific colour? Grounding helps children connect and be present in the moment and be aware of those thoughts and actions. If they learn how to be self-aware and what to do at an early age, they are less likely to suffer mental health issues when they are older.
Create a stable routine
Children need predictability to flourish and creating a stable environment for them to feel safe is paramount. The disruption of their daily routine recently means that it’s incumbent upon the parent to find some stability that works for both them and you. It also enables you to give a clear, consistent message.
It also goes without saying a good diet and exercise is not only good for your physical well-being, but it’s good for your mental well-being. Getting out in the fresh air, connecting with nature, exploring are all healthy ways of burning off energy and aids better sleep.
As a mother of four, from ages 17 through to six years, I have faced many different challenges with each of my children, which have increased significantly during this pandemic. It’s not easy being a child right now, they have no real release, no proper connection with the outside world, and they are suffering and struggling as much as we are.
It is also important to focus on parental well-being. We all want to be the best version of ourselves, so do take time out for yourself where possible, whether you go for a run or relax with a cup of tea, these moments of mindfulness are key to your own mental wellbeing and raising a balanced, happy family.
About the author:
Joanne Hutchinson has worked in Mental Health for 14 years. She is an award winner, kindness ambassador and a successful children’s author. She is a proud supporter of Children’s Mental health Week. Find more information on her Instagram page @thechildrensumbrella