Sunday the 10th October was World Mental Health Day which helps us to focus on the importance of positive mental health and wellbeing, especially as parents.
In 2020, one in six school-aged children was identified with a mental health problem. This has risen from one in ten in 2004 and one in nine in 2017. (NHS Digital, 2020). We also know that there is an average 10-year delay between young people displaying first symptoms and getting help.
So, it is all the more important that we think about ways we can support our children from the very youngest age in having positive mental health and emotional wellbeing, just as much as we support our children to have good physical health, so we help build their ability to cope with life’s challenges and stresses as they grow.
So what can you do as a parent?
It is actually quite simple, to make sure that they know that they are loved for being the unique individuals that they are. Love your child and show your affection for them. Hug, cuddle, read, play and talk with them throughout the day. Encourage your child to try new things and support them with making choices, dealing with challenges and taking manageable risks.
Five to Thrive can help you with this!
In the first three years of life the brain is growing and changing faster than it ever will again. At times during the first year of life a million connections are forming every single second in your baby’s brain.
We all know about the importance of ‘5 a day’ and that your child’s body grows better when you give the child good food. In the same way, your child’s brain grows better when you do five simple things that feed their growing brain:
Respond • Cuddle • Relax • Play • Talk
These are your child’s daily ‘five to thrive’ – the building blocks for a healthy brain and good positive mental health and wellbeing. A healthy brain will help your child be happy in themselves, make friends and enjoy their family, and help them build a good framework for life and its challenges from the youngest years.
Children who spend time with their parents/carers doing activities together truly feel that they are valued and build a positive sense of self-worth and feel more positive about themselves. When you spend time with your children you are also building good communication as part of your everyday lives together, which is important for your children to feel comfortable with talking to you about anything. This will be very important as they grow.
We also know that time spent playing outdoors is thought to help relieve stress and anxiety by reducing levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the brain. A recent study in the UK found that even just five minutes of time in a natural outdoor environment can rapidly improve self-esteem and mental health and wellbeing in children. So taking your child out to the park, the local green spaces or out into the garden is one of the best ways you can help build positive mental health.
None of this needs special knowledge, or any special equipment – it just needs YOU! Spend time with your baby, your toddler, your child – just focused on them, even on your busiest days– it is the best thing you can possibly do for their wellbeing.