Advice for parents on tackling children's mental health

Children’s Mental Health Week this week (3rd – 9th February) shines a light on children and young people’s mental health in the modern world. It’s no secret that mental health problems in children seems to be on the rise and yet, mental health services are struggling to keep up with demand.

The Children’s Society* revealed that one in 10 children between the ages of five and 16 have a diagnosable mental health condition and 75% of all mental health problems are established by the time someone is 18.

Children’s Mental Health Week is designed to raise awareness of issues for parents, carers and teachers and share tangible advice and ways to support children both at home and in school. Frank Milner, President of in-home tutoring brand, Tutor Doctor, knows all too well how children can quickly develop extreme levels of stress with school, exams and homework.

Here are his tips and advice on some of things that parents can do to combat children’s stress both in and out of the classroom:

1. Have something to look forward to. Having plans is one of the best ways of combating stress. Not only will children work harder to reach that end goal, having their sights set on something will help to focus them on their school/homework. Quite often children lose interest in their friends, family or other activities, but these form an integral part of their development. It might be having a friend around for dinner or a duvet day with their favourite films, but keeping them socially active is crucial.

2. Celebrate their learning. As school plays a huge part in a child’s life, it’s important to promote their learning and praise them for their work. The classroom and playground have an overwhelming effect on a child’s mood, attitude and willingness to learn. Work closely with them to achieve their goals, celebrate their successes and create an atmosphere of positivity.

3. Introduce a proper routine. That means sleeping, eating and socialising. The NHS recommends from 9-10 hours for children aged 9 to 16 years old. Eating well has also been proven to affect mental health – a well-balanced diet rich in vegetables and nutrients is associated with feelings of wellbeing.

4. Monitor social media usage. For both you and your child, social media provides an unhealthy distraction. Many people don’t understand that impact that it can have on mental health and how it can affect your everyday mood. Think about enforcing a digital detox on evenings to reduce the risk of getting distracted – put phones away an hour before bed as this will not only improve the quality of sleep but boost productivity the following day.

5. Talk about their feelings. If it’s not you – and don’t be disgruntled if they don’t want to talk to you – tell them that they can seek help from someone else. Encourage them to speak to someone about any issues they’re facing, whether it’s a friend, trusted teacher or a trained professional. If they’re having trouble articulating their feelings, there are text/email forums that are designed to help too.

Frank adds: “Mental health problems can present themselves at any stage of a child’s life. Parents often blame themselves for any issues that are caused, which introduces a whole new aspect to home life. What’s key for most of these tips is realising that it’s not a quick fix that can happen overnight, it’s a long process, but keep at it. By preparing yourself for those eventualities, you can be equipped with knowledge to deal with the situation in a healthy and constructive way.”


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