Children’s Mental Health Week – Healthy Inside and Out
This week has such a special place in my heart, I have worked with children throughout my professional career and having two little monkeys myself I just adore them. They make me laugh, cry, drive me potty at times but I am in awe of their zest for life and imagination and we all need reminding of that sometimes.
In my nursing practice I have sadly seen the alarming increase of children suffering from mental illness and shockingly on average 1 in 8 children will be diagnosed with a mental health illness before the age of 18. Depression, anxiety, stress and self-harm are on the increase and I have seen children as young as 8 make attempts on their own life. THIS IS HEARTBREAKING. I honestly believe that this increase is due to a societal shift, the daily demands we all feel, the pressure to be the best and always be on call – the escapism is shrinking and we are the only ones in control of how much time we spend bowing to these expectations. It feels sometimes that all aspects of our lives are 24/7 which is in some ways convenient and inspires connections but at the detriment of our own health and that of which is being learnt by our children.
As a parent I strive to instil healthy habits in my children, to empower their freedom and self-expression but equally at times when deadlines are looming and I feel the pressure and burn it is hard to balance their needs vs that imminent work project that needed completing yesterday. Naturally as a result, I feel guilty that I cannot constantly give my children my full attention, there are always chores to be done, messages to respond to, planning to do but why should they suffer as a consequence. But like everyone I guess, I am my own worst critic and actually when I reflect on what I give my children, the time we spend together is precious and quality – we go on adventures, we love exploring outside, we travel on an imagination ride to give us freedom to express ourselves, we bake, we laugh and connect through play. So, in these times I try to ditch the phone and embrace play just popping it out for those photo moments that we all treasure!
My daughter has recently been going through a phase of lack of self-confidence, comparing herself to others and believing that she is not special – she is 4 years old! I find it so upsetting to hear her talk like this but I am proud that she is expressing how she is feeling so I can comfort her and offer her wisdom to recognise that we are all different, we are all special and we are all worthy of our place in the world – we are one big family after all.
I realise that I am fortunate that my daughter can express how she’s feeling, but not every child is like this so take time to consider how your child will communicate best. Is it through a game for example; asking what was tricky about today and what was a treat? Focussing on the world around you, the colours and how they make you feel and if they are feeling anxious or worried get them to imagine they are blowing up a big balloon and all their worried thoughts are going into this balloon and when they are ready, they can let go and see it fly away. These are just some thoughts of ideas that you can utilise and use with your children.
I get how tough parenting is but how rewarding it is and it is by far the best job in the world and a real honour to inspire and nurture the growth of our children. Make time for them, listen to them and maybe by reconnecting you can all find some mindful space to just be you – away from distraction, away from work, away from the pressures of life and embrace your family.