Children’s Mental Health Week 2023: Ways to Connect With Your Child
Children’s Mental Health Week has been a yearly event since 2015, and returns this week until 12th February.
The week was launched by Place2Be, a leading UK provider of school-based mental health support, to raise awareness of the importance of children’s mental health.
Last year’s theme focused upon supporting children’s mental health to grow emotionally, and I posted tips for parents and carers.
This year’s theme is Let’s Connect, with the focus on encouraging young people to make meaningful connections to maintain their wellbeing.
Why is Connection So Important for Children’s Mental Health?
Humans are social beings who thrive in communities.
Even for people like me, who prefer our own company, our wellbeing can be severely affected if we never interact socialise.
Making connections with other people, whether it’s friends, family, peers or colleagues, is vital for the reward paths in our brains.
Avoiding forming these connections can cause anxiety, isolation and loneliness, which can lead to a negative impact upon our mental health.
Sadly the pandemic caused difficulties for many, affecting children’s mental health with many months at home instead of socialising with peers.
Place2Be have released figures that 78% of young people supported by their service have experienced anxiety in social situations, and 65% have had difficulties interacting with their classmates within the last year.
How Can We Help Young People to Connect?
With support, children can learn to connect in healthy, rewarding and meaningful ways.
As parents and carers, we are key role models to help our children’s mental health.
How we connect with others can influence how our children do this, from small things such as how we greet our neighbours, to how we deal with conflict and problems within deeper relationships.
Inspired by Place2Be’s resources, (linked to in the below Resources section), here are some ideas to help your children and teenagers make positive connections with others:
Connect Every Day
Make time each day with your child, where you actively connect with them. As their role model, this shows them how to connect and what they can get from others by doing it.
This can be five minutes of talking together before and after school, or during dinner at the table. Whenever they play, get involved, even if it’s just watching and talking to them about what they’re doing.
For teenagers, talking with them whilst doing an activity like driving home, or when cooking together can be great times to do this.
These activities enable them not to have to focus solely on you, so it feels less pressured and they may open up more about deeper things that will strengthen your connection.
Try to raise conversations about people you have important connections with.
This can include loved ones you’ve sadly lost, friends, family, neighbours and more.
Seeing our sadness, joy, love and worry about others can help young people to learn how to express their feelings that stem from connecting with others.
You can expand this by encouraging them to talk about their important people, such as their friends.
As children get older, their peer group becomes quite important, so listening to them and avoiding judgment can help.
Connect as a Family
Where possible, fit in family time every day.
This can be a board game after dinner, helping prepare a meal or even clearing away together whilst talking.
Little moments can be a great time to connect informally, and can be a way to make some of the mundane chores more enjoyable!
Resolve Issues Together
Families, friends and even colleagues fall out at times.
We can all argue, and our kids can learn how to argue from watching us.
When there’s a dispute, remember the child’s watching. Find ways to argue appropriately, avoiding name-calling, shouting and other harmful behaviours.
Teach them healthy ways to get your point across, and to say sorry where needed.
Show them how to make amends after an argument, so they learn how to reconnect and move on healthily.
Get to Know Each Other
Taking an interest in their hobbies, style and friendships can help to strengthen your bond and connection.
We may not understand the trends they’re into, but making that effort to ask about them can help so much.
It can teach them ways to communicate with others, and help them to feel closer to you.
These things can help a child feel at ease to then talk about serious feelings they may want support with.
Resources to Try for Children’s Mental Health
Children’s Mental Health Video Resources
- Celebrities including Dermot O’Leary and Big Zuu talk to BAFTA’s Young Presenters about their mental health in the Let’s Connect series.
- Puzzle Pieces is aimed at 4-7 year olds to show how we are all connected, with CBBC’s Art Ninja.
- Connecting Paperchains is for 7-11 year olds, focusing on the people, things and activities young people can feel connected to.
- Exchanging Postcards is for older children, aged 11-14. It encourages them to explore what connections mean to them.
- Josh Smith, hosts the series ‘How We Connect’ where 11-18 year olds open up about their mental health.
Twinkl have a range of online and printable resources that can be done with children of various ages.
Support for Children’s Mental Health
Young Minds offer a range of mental health support and advice for young people and their parents.
The NSPCC have information about keeping children safe and recognising signs that they might be struggling with their mental health.
No payment was received for this post. All opinions are honest and my own and any research or resources featured have been credited.