It's been over two months since the start of lockdown and the impact this has had on the lives and mental health of so many children and young people cannot be ignored.
As a parent of two children, I've been doing all I can to hold it together and stay positive around my children at a time when it matters the most. I’ve been more conscious and aware of what I can do to help protect my children’s mental health.
Here are five areas for you to consider that I believe have made a big impact upon my children's mental health and probably my own:
Taking care of your own mental health right now is so important and if you want to protect your child's mental health, then you have to make caring for yourself your number one priority. This may seem counterintuitive or even selfish but trust me, the better mental and emotional state that you're in, the better parent you can be for your children.
If you're highly stressed right now, anxious, fearful and worried about the future, that's totally understandable and normal given the circumstances, but you cannot let these fears and emotions take over.
So I encourage you to be selfish in a kind way. Think about how you can take more care of your own mental health so that you can bulletproof your mindset against the challenges we're facing. Perhaps you could take more time to exercise, go for long walks, read a good book or simply have a good chat with a friend… Whatever you choose, know that as you care for your own mental health, you're going to be in a better position to support your children's mental health.
When was the last time you watched the news and felt good after watching it? Probably never.
This step is so simple and probably the easiest, especially if at the moment you've got the news constantly on the TV. The kids can see it, the kids can hear it. And even if they're not paying attention, subconsciously the negativity being pumped out on a daily basis is affecting everyone in your home!
All the news is telling us 24/7 is how many people are dying, how many people are infected with coronavirus. This is making people more fearful and fear actually weakens our immune system.
Instead, check in for a few minutes a day to review the news summaries that are important to you and then check out and get on with your day, change the channel and watch something that puts a smile on your face.
We may never get an opportunity to spend as much time with our children ever again, and whilst I know this can also be difficult it presents an opportunity for us to spend some quality time together.
Let's take this time as an opportunity to spend more time playing with our children, having fun, laughing and learning together.
In fact right now is a perfect time for you to be a big kid again. Play the sports you used to love playing. Show your kids your hidden talents. And above all else, spend quality time with them, being interested and engaged in their world. This doesn't have to be something you do for hours a day but take whatever time you have and use those moments to develop an even closer relationship with your children that will also benefit their mental health.
Look, I know there's probably more negativity in the world at the moment, the normal. There's lots of reasons to feel down and loads of ways for us to find fault with but that just simply isn't going to help our situation.
Now is the time to put more effort into being more positive with ourselves and around our families. Everybody needs that bit more positivity right now. Being more positive is easy to do and easy not to do. Some people have developed habits of being more positive in their lives. Whilst others have developed a habit of being more negative but with some conscious effort, you can build a habit of being more positive.
Be extra encouraging around your children. Put more energy into noticing the good in things, finding what's working rather than spotting problems to complain about. If you're helping them with homeschooling, be more encouraging and patient with them when they don't understand the question, or perhaps are getting frustrated. Whilst being extra positive around your own children will obviously benefit their own mindset and emotional wellbeing, it's also going to help you feel good and more positive each day.
If you've recently had a holiday cancelled or some special occasion you were looking forward to, I know how disappointing it is. Our family was due to fly out to Disney world to spend two amazing weeks together, riding the roller coasters and having lots of fun. But getting down on ourselves and constantly reminding ourselves of the holiday that isn’t happening won't help. Instead, I choose to talk about the future with more optimism, reminding our children that we're still going to go to Disney World, just not yet...
In times of struggle and challenge, we need a future to focus on that excites us. Something in the distance that we're looking forward to, that can help us hang on and stay positive. Talk to your children optimistically about the future, when they'll be back at school, seeing their friends, when they can stay over at their grandparents again or when they can get back to playing for the local sports team.
After two months of having locked down imposed upon us, I'm happy knowing that I've done my best to protect my children’s mental health. Even though they still miss playing with their friends, they are still happy and healthy. And it's because of these simple steps that we can take every day to help protect our children's mental health during this pandemic.
Help Your Children Stay Happy, Positive and Mentally Strong During These Challenging Times…