It’s important to regularly ask your child how they are, so they get used to talking about their feelings and know there's always someone to listen if they want to talk. Creating a fun space can help with this, some parents find during activities their children can open up more about how they feel. This may include baking, arts and crafts, sports, board games, reading stories and talking about them afterwards.
The important thing is trying to be engaged with your child and giving them your time without distraction. Paying attention to their emotions and behaviour, will help you to note important changes and understand their needs better.
Many children and young people grow in confidence and feel supported when a parent shows an active interest in their life and the things important to them. It not only helps them value who they are but also makes it easier for you to spot problems and support them.
Supporting your child to keep active, learn new skills and be connected with their community and friends is one of the best ways to keep your child’s emotional health on track. Whilst we are spending more time at home together it is a great opportunity to talk to your child about their interests and what they enjoy, you can then think of ways to support them in those interests. Very often these things don’t have to cost a lot of money and very often your local Family Information Service will be able to tell you what’s free and reasonably priced in your area. Schools, colleges and your local authority will also have good ideas or may be able to access things that will support your child’s interests.
Listening to your child and valuing what they say, without judging their feelings, in turn makes them feel valued and grows their trust and confidence in your relationship. This isn’t always easy, sometimes when your child describes how they are feeling, it can be difficult to hear, even accept. Particularly when we hear this for the first time. The most important thing is not to react in the moment or disregard the child’s feelings, but listen calmly and show that you are engaged and want to help. It’s good to talk about why they may be feeling like they are, but remember many children and young people do not know why, but they know how they feel. It’s good to talk about what they think will help and what you think with help and some things you can try. Sometimes just talking about it and having a plan in place can make a big difference to your child.
It’s good to check in with your child, but try to let them take the lead in how much they share, it’s a tough balance but over questioning can sometimes lead to a child becoming reluctant to share, so take your que from them and offer regular opportunities without any pressure.
We know it is not easy to create a routine and structure at this time, with the regular lockdowns and the need to self-isolate, our usual routines can be thrown out of balance. Research does however tell us that the majority of children feel better with a positive routine in place. Routines and structures can support a child’s wellbeing and encourage positive behaviours. A good place to start can be to reintroduce regular routines at home around healthy eating and exercise. A good night's sleep is also really important – try to get them back into routines that fit with school or college.
Parenting or caring for a child or young person can be tough at times. It's really important to look after your own mental health and wellbeing, as this will help you support those you care for.
Recognising and acknowledging when you're feeling low or overwhelmed is an important first step. Struggling with something or experiencing your own mental health problems does not mean you are a bad parent or carer.
It's completely normal to be anxious and worried during difficult times, the most important thing is that you recognise this. You may be feeling exhausted, emotional and anxious and if these feeling persist it may be time to start thinking of ways you can look after your mental health better and this may include getting professional support. Below we have provided some useful information you may find helpful.
The Five Ways to Wellbeing sets out the simple steps we can all take to look after our mental health and wellbeing. You can also read useful ‘tips for everyday living’ on the MIND mental health charity website and find practical ways to look after your mental health on the Mental Health Foundation website.
You can also find specific resources on how to look after your mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic here: https://phw.nhs.wales/services-and teams/improvement-cymru/news-and-publications/publications/mental-health-and-wellbeing-cymru-self-help-resources-to-support-mental-health-and-wellbeing/.
It also might be helpful to speak to a friend, fellow parent or carer you trust enough to tell how you're feeling. Maybe there's family, friends or a colleague who could support you or allow you a break? There's plenty of help out there. You should never feel like you have to cope on your own. See our Adults mental health FAQ’s for further information: FAQs for adults who are seeking support from mental health services for the first time.