Children's Mental Health Week - 3 Key Lessons: Supporting Anxious Children
#childrensmentalhealthweek #mentalhealth #mentallyhealthyschools #anxiety
1.) Growing Together
The theme for 2022 was 'growing together'.
When I think of 'growing together' and anxious children, I immediately think of how adults and children can grow alongside each other.
I think of the power of vulnerability and in turn, I think of Brené Brown, who explores this so well in her Ted Talk that shot her to fame. You can see it here.
Together with children we can share our human experiences (in an age appropriate way). Children often believe that adults do not have worries, which may feel very protective to children in the short term - but of course, they soon find that adults do struggle like anyone else.
The message I believe to be most important is that we literally need to feel all of our feelings and share them. When these experiences are shared, we reduce stigma and we strengthen relationships.
You know that lovely feeling of connection you get with someone when you both share something vulnerable for the first time?
Children need that too.
2.) The Impact of the Pandemic
This cannot be covered in a single blog post so I will share some key points.
Children have suffered, and will continue to suffer due to the various ways their lives have been impacted for the past 2 years.
I view this through a trauma informed lens, where I think about chronic stress, the body/mind link, and how these memories might be processed.
It is clear that each and every single one of us has experienced, and continue to experience the pandemic in a unique way.
Children may have experienced ups and down, may appear okay one day and not the next. They may also display new behaviours, and express new beliefs about the world around them.
Adults arguably had less resources to cope with the situation, due to the uncertainty that we all faced. The anxiety experienced across the world has been profound. I think that acknowledging this is absolutely vital.
Where there is a trauma response to the pandemic for some children, symptoms are likely to be experienced even after the threat itself (the pandemic or the child's interpretation of the pandemic) appears to be 'over' or significantly reduced.
There are some very poignant reflections on the pandemic on the official website for Children's Mental Health Week - the link is here.
Beacon House offers amazing resources if you would like to read more about trauma.
3.) Using Awareness to Make Real Change
I often experience mixed feeling about 'awareness' weeks/days/months.
Sometimes I fear that it does not always translate to real change.
With regards to mental health, I frequently return to the 'small steps' analogy. Change does not need to mean grand gestures and huge life changes. More often than not, the smallest changes can have the biggest impact.
So I invite anyone reading here to think of one very small, achievable goal you would like to achieve in terms of mental health. We know we are more successful in achieving our goals if we are realistic. Starting small has a high success rate.
Decide first if this goal relates specifically to your own mental health or your child/a child. If a child, I recommend that you involve them and be transparent where appropriate. For example, if you are going to share more of your own feelings, let them know.
Mental health goals can include anything around self-care, relationships, habits etc.......
Sometimes it is as simple as drinking more water, taking more breaks at work, having some time to yourself - the list is endless.
Remember that the smallest journey starts with a single step.
You can also sign up for my FREE PDF - Supporting Anxious Teens here.