Children’s Mental Health Week 2023 will take place from 6-12 February 2023. This year’s theme is Let’s Connect.
What’s it all about?
Let’s Connect is about making meaningful connections, and for Children’s Mental Health Week 2023, Place2Be is encouraging people to connect with others in healthy, rewarding and meaningful ways. As parents and carers, you are an important role model to your child. How you connect with friends and family will influence your child, and how they develop their own friendships and relationships. For example, how you greet people and maintain friendships, but also how you forgive people or say sorry when you need to.
What can you do?
Here are a few simple ways you can connect with your child and help them to make meaningful connections.
1. Connect with your child in everyday ways
Moments of connection (and re-connection) are really important in child-caregiver relationships. For example, when you pick them up from school, or come in from work, try to give them your full attention and see if this
helps you feel better connected as you hug, talk, smile and hear about their day. Watching your child play and joining in is really important to them – so put your phone away and have a bit of fun – being playful is good for adults, too!
With your older child, you may find times such as car journeys a good time to talk, or to reconnect by playing music you both like. It is important to be accessible to a teenager when they need to talk. You may have to be there ‘on their terms’ and be ready to listen.
2. Talk to your child about important connections
This could include talking about family members, friends, neighbours, childminders, people in the local community and others in your faith group (if you have one). Remember it’s OK to talk about people they miss, for
example, family members who live in a different country or people who have died. Children learn a lot from their parents about how to express their feelings, including the joy that comes with feeling connected to others and the sadness that comes with missing others.
3. Talk to your child about their friends
As children become teenagers, their friendship groups become increasingly important to them. Be open to hearing about their friendships and try to listen without judgement. Ask them about their life in real life and online. You may not think online friends are ‘real friends’, but your child may feel differently. Losing friends, feeling left out or being bullied is very painful and your child needs to know you will support them through these difficult
4. Connect by taking an interest in your child’s world
As adults we can sometimes be dismissive of the things that our children and teenagers are interested in, e.g. their music, fashion, what they watch etc. If you do take an interest in these things, however, you may feel better connected to your child and the important things in their world. This can lead to other conversations about other things in their lives that matter to them.
5. Find time to connect as a family
Family life can become busy and stressful, so it’s important to find some time where you connect together. This could include simple things like cooking, watching a film, playing a game, going to the park or even doing the family shop together.
6. Try to resolve conflict and re-connect after arguments
Arguments and moments of disconnection are bound to happen in families – between your children, between yourself and your children and between yourself and your partner, if you have one. It is important that children learn how to disagree in appropriate ways, how to say sorry and how to make amends when they have done something wrong. They will learn a lot about how to do these things from you – so try to model the behaviour you want to see in your children. Talk to them about how to re-connect with friends after arguments including what they can do to help repair relationships.
Video activities from Place2Be
Puzzle Pieces – aimed at 4-7 year olds, this activity is presented by CBBC’s Art Ninja, Ricky Martin, and will show children how we are all connected. Why not take part as a family? www.childrensmentalhealthweek.org.uk/puzzlepieces
Connecting Paperchains – developed by Place2Be‘s Art Room team for 7-11 year olds, this activity helps children think about the people, things and activities they feel connected to. www.childrensmentalhealthweek.org.uk/paperchains
Exchanging Postcards – developed by Place2Be‘s Art Room team for 11-14 year olds, this activity encourages young people to explore what connection means to them. www.childrensmentalhealthweek.org.uk/postcards
Looking for free practical advice to help you support your child?
Parenting Smart, Place2Be’s site for parents and carers, is full of expert advice and tips on supporting primary-age children, and managing their behaviour.