Inspiring each other to talk about our well-being

Wow! What a week it has been, I was so fortunate last week to be part of a worship at my daughters school where I spoke to the children about mental health, their feelings and that it is ok to not be ok. We all feel sad at times but the message I wanted to get across to the children was that if they were feeling sad that they can talk about their feelings because if they fell over and hurt themselves they would naturally tell someone and the same applies to our feelings.  

We spoke openly about feelings and the importance of friends and helping each other to smile. A great example I used was Winnie-The-Pooh and his friends, Eyeore often feels low but his friends always include him and try to cheer him up. I shared with the children the importance of smiling, sharing a beautiful poem by Spike Milligan about how smiling is infectious and challenged them to see how many people they could make smile that day. I showed the children some exercises that if they felt, angry, worried or sad to imagine they are blowing up a big balloon and then to let all their worries float away and also got them to take some deep breaths – the participation and engagement of the children was just fantastic, I was truly blown away and inspired to appreciate their resilience but also my role as a parent to provide a nurturing and open relationship with my own children.

As a result of this worship, I had incredible feedback from parents who were grateful for raising the importance of mental health and how we can look after ourselves by encouraging our children to talk about their feelings. So many of the children went home that night sharing the detail of the worship and how many people they made smile that day! This was wonderful to hear, I spent 15 minutes talking to the children and the impact it had is just brilliant. One Mum Naomi commented “my children were so keen to tell me how much they enjoyed worship and the importance of talking about how they feel on the inside. Their insight was really interesting and they had understood what to do when they are worried about something, they loved the smiling challenge and were so engaged – my boys struggle to talk about their feelings and this has inspired them to open up”

The impact led to Naomi’s 8 year old son Jake Aylott being inspired to write the following about Mental Health:

Mindfulness

Everyone has feelings

Never let sad feelings get you down

Try to focus on the positive

Always take a deep breath if you feel sad

Let’s all talk about our feelings

Hey, let’s go outside and get some sunshine

Everyone has their own abilities

Ask how people feel

Love everyone around you

Think of other people who may be sad

Help people when they need it

This is just amazing! I am truly in awe by the impact of this worship and if I can inspire children to open up about their feelings, then perhaps you can make time too. We all need to invest in our wellbeing, to be healthy inside and out and if ever in doubt just SMILE and spread a little happiness along the way.

B x

Our Children’s Mental Health Matters Too…

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.

B x