10% of children and young people aged 5 to 16 have a clinically diagnosed mental health disorder.
Approximately a further 15% have less severe problems that put them at increased risk of developing mental health problems in the future.
Trying to maintain your child’s emotional wellbeing and promoting resilience can reduce this risk.
When it comes to spending time with our children, quality is much more important than quantity. Try to set aside a specific time each day during which you engage in activities directed by your child; offer them your undivided attention and let them know they are your priority.
Properly listening is one of the most important ways that we can build resilience. Listening shows your child that you are interested in what they have to say and that you can see the world through their eyes. You don’t have to agree with what they are saying, but listening shows them that you respect them and teaches them self-respect.
Let your child know that everyone experiences pain, fear, anger, and anxiety – this may even encourage them to open up to you. While children are upset, sensitive listening provides emotional first aid.
One of the best things for promoting resilience is a belief that we are good at something. Parents who identify their children's strengths and help them develop those strengths will see their children become increasingly confident and resilient. They will gain a sense that they have something to offer the world.
Children will make lots of mistakes, even when trying their best. When our children do things that are wrong, we can focus on teaching them rather than punishing them. Often the most effective way to teach is to invite our children to think about how their actions made you feel and what they have learned from what they did.
When our children struggle, we often want to tell them what to do to fix things. Constantly making decisions for your child can undermine their decision making skills and confidence.
When your child is faced with a problem, listen to them and try to see the world through their eyes. When they feel understood, ask them “What do YOU think we should do?”
Let your child know that you are willing to help and support. Then invite him or her to make a decision, and be supportive. If a decision is poor, offer gentle guidance or ask, “I wonder what might happen if we did that.” As your child thinks through the various possibilities, he/she will gain confidence in making her or his own decisions following challenging situations.
When you make a mistake, what do you do? Do you throw your hands in the air and say “it’s too hard” or do you see your mistake as a chance to learn something new?
When your child makes a mistake, what do you say to them? Show them that you see setbacks and failures as an opportunity for learning and improving. By teaching them that continued effort and practice are the keys to success, setbacks are no longer seen as frightening, and children become more resilient – willing to take risks, become more inquisitive and to try new things.
Be aware of behavioural changes that could indicate your child is struggling. If their teacher tells you that they are having trouble getting along with other children in class, don’t just shrug it off as being out of character and hope for the best. What may start off as small behavioural patterns can rapidly escalate into significant emotional problems in the future.
If your child shows an unusual amount of anxiety, fear, anger or stress, it is important to get them the help that they need. The needs of your child should always outweigh how you think you will be viewed as a parent.
Although it's important to prioritize our children's needs, it's equally important to remember that how we are feeling has a huge impact on how they feel. Children are naturally highly attuned to their parents' moods. Putting on a brave face or denying our frustrations will never fully mask what we are feeling, and these feelings are sure to impact on them.
Taking care of our own mental health is a key factor in helping our children feel happy - parents with good mental health will be better equipped to help their children.