One of the best ways to help your child cope with mental health issues is by communicating openly with them at all times. By showing your child respect and by being able to communicate honestly, you are allowing them the opportunity to discuss their feelings in a safe environment where they feel loved and unjudged.
Even without facing a mental health issue, growing up can often be difficult for children as they are learning about themselves and discovering their identity in the world. When we share our experiences with our children and discuss how we have dealt with similar issues, it can make them feel less alone and more comfortable to speak about their own feelings.
Ask for helpBecause there are many different mental health issues, including bi-polar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), ADHD, depression and autism to contend with, sometimes we need to ask the experts for help as we are not always equipped with the knowledge and resources to deal with it on our own.
Encouraging your child to talk to the experts can give them and yourself a greater insight into the issue and you’ll learn about different strategies that can be put in place. Also, you’ll find support groups for children with similar mental health issues, which can make your child feel less alone and more accepted.
Provide a supportive environmentOnce you've spoken with your doctor or social worker, you’ll be able to recognise symptoms and adjust your child’s environment accordingly. If you notice certain mood changes or specific symptoms that relate to their disorder, you’ll be more equipped to provide the right environment.
Perhaps you need to give them some space, or maybe they’ll benefit from an activity that will stimulate their mind, but you will be in a much better position to understand what your child needs.
Take care of their physical wellbeingIt’s equally as important to look after your child’s physical wellbeing in order for them to cope with their mental health issue. Spend time with them outside, whether that’s taking a walk in the countryside or going on a bike ride. Plenty of exercise, a well-balanced diet and a good sleep regime will all contribute towards improving their mental wellbeing.
Take care of yourselfMost importantly, remember to look after yourself, both mentally and physically so that you are able to provide the best possible care for your child. We are all human and no matter what age we are, we also need self-love. If you feel yourself becoming stressed, anxious or tired, take some time out and do something you enjoy or simply rest and clear your mind. Mindfulness and meditation are great ways to recharge your batteries and gain a clearer perspective on life.
Further informationIt can be helpful to know what are ‘normal’ issues for a child to experience at a given stage of their life. Our booklet ‘Flourishing children – help your child to thrive’ looks at the different issues a child may experience and the sorts of things that may help. Download our families booklet here >
The NHS also has a wonderful online hub of information that provides children with advice and help on dealing with mental health issues.