Author Note: This article is part of a collection from the previously lost Bordering Bears website, and has thus been re-uploaded and archived.
Children generally don’t have to work or pay bills. There’s a lot that children are not allowed to do. This doesn’t mean that they can’t also suffer with their mental health.
Particularly during the current lockdown, your child may be finding it more difficult to manage and regulate their emotions. They may have outbursts that even they can’t explain.
Here are 5 ways that you can support your child with their own mental health, with input from Feena.
Don’t let it become an excuse
We can all say and do things we don’t mean when angry or upset, but I’ve found it’s best to not let things slide. If you do, it may be seen as an opportunity to behave in any way and get away with it.
Instead of allowing it, acknowledge the feelings but also make it clear that rudeness, or other disrespectful behaviour, will not be tolerated no matter what.
Feena: They need to control it but at the same time they will splurt out rudeness, but the rudeness isn’t okay.
Give a safe space
Safe spaces are important for all people, no matter their age. This is a place where you can go and cry, hit a pillow, mumble rude words, or even sit in silence.
Children also need a safe space, such as their bedroom, where they can go and unload their feelings. This may also aid with keeping their general behaviour on point.
Feena: It’s good because you’re not hitting anybody. You’re not hurting your mum or parent. You’re just going in your room with nobody in there and you’re calming yourself down by hitting something or crying. Or you can have a hug with a cuddly toy and squeeze it really tight.
Talking through emotions can be great. You can figure out which worries are legitimate and which may be unfounded.
This will also teach your child that it’s okay to have feelings, and that it is okay for them to reach out to you with any problems. Bottling up isn’t healthy, so encourage your child to open up to you.
Feena: I can talk to my mummy about my problems because she’s my parent. I think talking about my problems will help me because then Mummy understands if I’m rude. Talking helps me because it makes me feel that “reshorance”.
(She meant reassurance, but I have to give the kid her dues for thinking that through.)
If your child is struggling with their emotions and talking it through doesn’t seem to be doing much, it may be worth finding outside resources to help.
You might want to speak to your GP, child’s school, or local children’s centre for advice and support for both you and your child.
Feena: It’s a sensible thing to do. If your parent doesn’t know how to help you can go to a Doctor. It could be for anybody. It could be for any age. You can go there.
Love them just the same
We have a saying in our house that we love the person, but hate the behaviour. That rings true for a lot of things. We love each other, but hate rudeness, hate shouting, hate depression etc. We use this phrase to show the difference between the two, that we will always love each other, but sometimes people say or do things that you hate.
You can love your child and hate what they’re going through. Remember that you are human, and you feel stress and hurt too, even as a parent. It’s okay to not like things.
Make sure your child knows how much you love them. Always. Some children may take comfort knowing that you hate what they’re going through too, whereas others may see it as pressure to hide their emotions to make you happy, so discussing this with them will simply depend on each individual child.
Feena: Even if your child is being rude or sad, it doesn’t mean you don’t love them. The good thing is that you’re crying it out. The bad thing is that you can’t just stop crying. If I’m upset I like it when Mummy hugs me and strokes my head and says it’s okay.
When supporting your child, you may also find it useful to have help for yourself too. I can remember my parents struggling trying to help me when I was younger, but there wasn’t too much support then.
Local community resources can be great aids for your family, if you seek them out.