This week was Children’s Mental Health Week 2018, this, I think is something that can often be forgotten when we discuss mental health.
When we talk about this subject our minds often think about young adults and teenagers, we sometimes forget that young children can also suffer from anxiety, low self-esteem, obsessive compulsive disorder and disordered eating to name just a few.
One of the aims of this awareness week is to emphasise the benefits of early intervention, when a child might be showing early sign of suffering from a potential mental health condition. Parents often ask me, ‘but how do i intervene?’ or ‘what do I say?’. These are extremely important questions that seem like they should have a straight forward answer, but the truth is, every child is different, and as their parent/carer your intuition will serve as your best friend at this stage and could play a crucial part in preventing the onset of a mental illness. If you feel that there is something amiss with your child, the first step is to open a conversation and the second is to listen.
I have listed below a few ways in which you might want to start the conversation, without, hopefully, causing an immediate barrier.
- First of all, it is important that the child feels they have your full attention and that everything they say is taken seriously. You might want to turn off your phone and electronic devices. Also, it is important that the ‘chat’ is in a place where they feel safe and secure, so they do not feel vulnerable.
- Simply ask them how they are feeling. You can acknowledge that growing up is really hard and scary and can be very confusing, but that opening up and communicating about how you feel makes it a lot easier.
- Another way is again by asking them if anything is upsetting them or making them feel sad in any way. You might want to talk about your own experience when you were young, stressing that whatever they’re going through is not abnormal
- Finally, spell it out that you are there for them and that you will help them get the help that they need.
It is important that the young person does not feel as though you are angry at them, try and keep a soft tone in order to reach their level, and always re-iterate that you are there for them, no matter the situation.