Today is World Mental Health Day, created by the World Federation for Mental Health. The aim of the day is to get us all talking about the state of our mental health and this year the focus is on young people and mental health in a changing and often confusing world.
Here at Nicol Estate Agents we are strong advocates for helping those with mental health issues and last weekend supported the Legends Soccer Sixes Tournament helping to raise vital funds for mental health in Scotland.
Young people today are growing up and navigating life with the Internet at the forefront of everything they do. Sadly an increasing number of young people are exposed to online bullying, watching violent or upsetting content, and being bombarded with an endless stream of upsetting news and unachievable lifestyles that they cannot help but compare to their own.
So what can you do as a parent to support your child in this online age?
If your child seems unhappy or if you are worried about their behaviour, it’s easy to be hard on yourself and think you aren’t doing a good job. If you’re worried about your child there is help out there. Here are some tips from Young Minds, an organisation that provides help and advice to both parents and young people affected by depression, anxiety or ADHD.
Reassure your child that you are proud of them and they are loved. A hug can go a long way to reassure a child if you find words difficult. Praise them regularly (whatever their age) and encourage them to try new things.
If you overreact, shout or say unkind things to your child you won’t lose face by saying you’re sorry. You are only human and by explaining that you struggle too can help them to learn that it’s ok to make mistakes, and it doesn’t mean you’re a bad person.
Be clear about what behaviour is unacceptable and explain why. Set boundaries so they know what they can and can’t do, and make it clear what will happen if they cross the line. When they do, make sure you follow through what you have said will happen, otherwise they could get confused.
Don’t be afraid to make difficult decisions. If your child sees that you have doubts and are scared it could make them feel in control – they need to know that you are there to keep them safe and have the final say.
If your child is demonstrating worrying or difficult behaviour, it could be short-lived. It’s worth remembering that children go through stages of feeling anxious or angry and they can show this in lots of ways such as crying, tantrums, waking in the night or arguing with friends at school. In most cases young people grow out of worrying behaviour on their own or with family support.
Make sure you keep the lines of communication open as they may surprise you and understand more than you think. Ask your child what they think would help – they often have good ideas about solving their own problems. Give them a chance to talk to you about it and ask them what is bothering them understand about feelings and behaviour if you give them a chance to talk about it. Give them your undivided attention when talking to them and take them somewhere they are comfortable. If your child is older, they may be less communicative so let them know you are worried and that you are there should they want to talk. You could even send them a text or email if this is how they are comfortable communicating.
It always helps to talk to other parents, and parents of your child’s friends. They may have a different take on what’s going on.
Make sure that you and your partner (your other child’s carer if there is one) are using the same approach, otherwise your child could use any point of difference to get their own way.
You can find more advice on when to think about getting professional help, and what to do, if you are concerned about your child’s behaviour, in this parent’s A-Z guide from YoungMinds. Parents who are worried about their children’s mental wellbeing can call YoungMinds’ parent helpline on 0808 802 5544 between 9.30am and 4pm Monday to Friday. Samaritans are always available on 116 123.
If you’re a young person struggling with mental health issues, YoungMinds offer 24/7 support through a textline (text YM to 85258). Or you can call Childline on 0800 1111.