This week is Children’s Mental Health Week, a campaign which focuses on ways to improve children’s mental health. Currently, the statistics regarding youth mental health are alarming; NHS mental health services saw a 39% rise in referrals in the past year.
Thankfully, there are ways that we as parents can encourage positive mental health in our kids, and a connection to others is a great tool for wellbeing.
How connection to others promotes better mental health
Meaningful human connections are vital for positive health. It could be as simple as seeing friends, or being a friendly neighbour, but those simple interactions help provide us with a sense of belonging and emotional security.
For kids, friendships can be tricky to navigate and sometimes, fraught with stress or even bullying. Peer pressure looms large over teenagers, and with hormone changes, emotions can run wild.
Having positive social connections can be an important anchor for children in tumultuous times. It can help ground them during difficult moments and give them a positive focus.
How children can make healthy social connections
One way that children can find wellbeing through connection is via clubs and groups. Having friends outside of school can be helpful to kids who find school stressful. It also means that if problems arise with school friends they have alternative friends to lean on. When part of a club that explores an interest, children make friends with others with similar likes and dislikes to them, and bond over shared passions. This helps improve self-esteem and their sense of self.
Sports are also a great way to connect with others. Group sports offer a sense of belonging and team spirit that provide a positive focus. There are also additional benefits in getting more exercise which improves mental health, as well as making new friends.
Children can also find their mental health greatly improved through charitable endeavours. If children are animal lovers they will enjoy helping out at weekends at animal shelters or at stables. They could also help mentor others, or help coach a younger sports club. Volunteering is an incredible self-esteem builder, and helping others naturally brings with it a sense of worth and happiness.
The importance of connection to parents
If you find it tricky engaging your growing child in conversation, you’re not alone. Having a close relationship with open communication is important for your child’s mental health, however, and they need to know they can talk about their stresses with you.
One way that parents often find helpful is talking to their teen while in the car. With no bedroom to escape to, children are sat side by side their parent, which provides a non-face-to-face environment for them to feel safe opening up in.
Another trick to try is sharing meals. It has been proven that by sitting at a table and having dinner together, deeper bonds are created between family members, and their mental health improves as a result.
If your child has a hobby or an interest, you could also try engaging with them through it. Join them regularly in looking at their Pokemon cards or drawing, and you’ll find the bond between you deepens. You could also try organising days out to do things they’re interested in, or even just walk the dog locally. Doing activities together shows your child that you’re committed to them and interested in their world, which helps to create trust between you.