Wellbeing starts at home
On this week's "Wellbeing Lounge", I'm chatting with Bernadette Barnes of Homestart who provide support for families which can include activities, dealing with isolation or mental ill health, getting finances into order and much more. So I thought I'd look at the importance of wellbeing for children.
Research continually reflects that what most parents want for their children is health and happiness. Yet increasing numbers worry about whether they will maintain that positive state of wellbeing. Research by Mentalhealth.org.uk suggests that around 1 in 6 young people have mental ill health concerns, and of those, around 75% may not be getting the support they need. It is no wonder that parents feel a need to protect and shield their children.
However, what parents must recognise is that they will not always be around to help their child so directly, and making their child overly reliant on them can hinder the child’s own healthy development and self-efficacy. Therefore, supporting children with ways in which they learn to accept their emotions (positive and negative), as well as feel empowered to manage them when they need to offers the child a wonderful foundation to build upon their sense of wellness.
Role model emotional expression
By not only being open with children (in age-appropriate ways they can understand) about how they feel, and that sometimes everyone can feel sad, or angry or disappointed – as well as happy and joyful and excited, and creating with them ways that they can feel better when they need to, you give them an important life skill. Further if you role model what you teach yourself, you demonstrate consistency between words and action, and reap the benefits of the practice too (plus, by developing wellbeing boosters together, you might learn something new from your child too!)
4 simple things you can do with children to boost their wellness:
1. Create a Calm Kit
A calm kit is a great way to teach children ways to self-soothe in a healthy manner, as well as open a dialogue about emotions – that they are OK, and when they feel overwhelming, you have the ability to manage them. A “Calm Kit” is a little box or bag of activities or things which can help children release or manage stress.
a) Find a little box or a bag – something that can be personalised or decorated
b) Discuss with your child what will help them feel calm when they are experiencing big emotions.
i. A bottle of bubbles encourages them to breathe in a paced manner without thinking about it.
ii. Maybe include a notepad and pen. This will allow them to write or draw their feelings if they don’t want to talk.
iii. If you like to have something to do with their hands eg.a “fidget toy” or a “stress ball”. This is sometimes found to assist children who struggle with sitting still in class – having a “wobble cushion” or a “fiddle toy” which is allowed by the teacher enables them to self soothe while remaining within school-wide rules.
iv. Having a fan can also help you to (literally) cool down as one’s temperature often rises when we get stressed. If a breath of fresh air is not possible due to environment, a fan is an excellent option.
v. A little checklist can also be helpful – perhaps this includes as series of “kind words” to use; or a reminder to “breathe deeply” when you recognise that you are getting stressed.
c) The “Calm kit” is individual to each person, and you might find it is something that you can do together – and talk about what you both include in yours!
2. PLAY together! (for play’s sake)
Happiness is not a goal, it’s a state, and one that we can learn to create in ourselves by learning from our children. As adults we know play is an important part of growth teaching cognitive, emotional, physical and creative skills, as well as teamwork and reflection, but children know how to play, just for the sake of having fun. We adults may have forgotten.
So try these:
- Build a fort with your children – and let your imagination take you from there
- Camp under the stars in your back garden (roasting marshmallows too perhaps!)
- As a family go to an “escape room” – there are many which have child-friendly rooms (eg www.panicroom.net ‘s “Wizard of Oz”, and the gamification of a team task, plus the levelling of an escape room (where the puzzles appeal to a range of abilities and skills) . This helps us all engage with skills we may not know we had, AND recognise them in each other.
Your family is a team as much as your team at work!
3. Try a wellbeing treasure hunt (this one can even be played online!!)
Challenge your children to find things around the house which:
- Make them feel happy
- [X Family member} would like
- Make them feel comforted
- Would help someone feeling angry
- Make them feel better when they are sad
...the list is endless. What I love about this particular game is that the things they bring can spark discussion into why they believe that item is so helpful, and again, you gain insight into what is important to them. As always, you can share your own choices as well.
4. Create a "worry box" and Set aside "Worry time"
For the child that worries - and perhaps for yourself as well - create a "worry box" - like the "calm kit" - this can be a little shoebox or bag which you can decorate together. This is for your children to put their worries into - they can write them down and pop them in the box.
Then, at a set time each day you can both sit down together and go through them asking which worries are still affecting them, which they can tear up, and of those that are left - which can they influence and together work out a plan of action to tackle them.
Not only are you able to discuss emotions, but this ritual can bring a moment of quality time which you are spending together without distractions.
Dr Audrey Tang is a chartered psychologist and author with a specialty in the "how to take action", rather than just giving explanation and advice. Listen to her podcast Retrain Your Brain here; or her Radio Show "The Wellbeing Lounge", and catch her practical masterclasses Psych Back to Basics on DisruptiveTV & Energy Top Up for resilience. For self development tools based within positive psychology: click Her YouTube Channel . Twitter/IG @draudreyt