Child Protection Week: Why it's important to make sure your child is thriving mentally
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Nelson Mandela always loved children, and he said: “Our children are the rock on which our future will be built, our greatest asset as a nation.”
Equipping parents, especially during Child Protection Week, to protect their children’s mental well-being is necessary; now more than ever before.
Fear and anxiety increase stress which doesn’t help our children learn new skills or subjects.
According to the World Economic Forum, “Today, 99%of the world’s children are living under some form of pandemic-related limit on movement; 60% live in countries under full or partial lockdown and 1.5 billion children are out of school.”(1) Our children face pressures that we never even dreamt about. This can lead to an increase in depression, anxiety and conduct disorders often linked to what is going on around them.
“Children are feeling stressed from not having had access to all the work, or have anxiety with not having completed the work. The anxiety stemming from Covid-19 affects a child’s ability to learn. School will look very different when the children return, the way they interact with their friends has changed,” explained a high school educator.
Mental wellbeing is everyone’s business. Good mental health in our children allows them to develop socially, think clearly, grow in emotional intelligence and learn new skills.
Protect your children’s mental well-being by considering these four questions.
Is your child feeling overwhelmed?
Often when children feel overwhelmed, they act out. Some children withdraw, and others become hyperactive. Help your little one navigate these big feelings with care and wisdom.
Is your child getting enough sleep?
Our sleep patterns affect our mental wellness. When your child gets enough sleep, they can make better positive decisions, are able to enjoy the day more, not being irritable from a lack of sleep. One consequence of the fallout from Covid-19 is disrupted sleep patterns due to an increase in anxiety. You can help your children relax more by keeping negative news to a minimum and maintain a consistent bedtime routine.
How has your child’s routine changed?
Routine helps your children feel safe and able to cope with change. It establishes consistency, boundaries and provides clear expectations that in turn, aids mental well-being.
Routines protect our children emotionally. If your child doesn’t know what to expect, then that unpredictability can cause them to become anxious or even afraid of the unknown. “We’ve seen an increase in depression in teens linked to a lack of structure, often presenting in anger,” reflected a counselling psychologist.
Is your child feeling heard?
When our children feel heard, they can regulate their emotions and manage those overwhelming feelings better. Take time to listen to your son or daughter. Pay attention to their body language and ask open-ended questions. Put your phone down and connect with them.
Mental health is something we have to protect in our children if they are to rise in the coming days with strength, compassion, and creativity. A simple example is to remember what it was like for you as a child and then respond to your children accordingly. Think back to when you were ten or sixteen? What did you need from your mom and dad?
If we genuinely believe that our children are our future, then we have to care for their mental well-being too.
Mandi Hart is a writer and public speaker on parenting and fearless living. She is the author of "Parenting with Courage and The Parenting Journal". Purchase her book here.