Experts agree that a child’s home environment has a significant impact on their mental health as they learn behaviours and emotional expectations at home first.
We asked our own Simon Clarke, Deputy Head of Primary for Pastoral & Safeguarding for tips that parents can use to take an active role in their child’s mental health at home.
Simon Clarke said:
- It is important for children to have strong relationships with family and friends outside of school. Parents are encouraged to spend time together each night as a family. A popular time would be during dinnertime, where research shows sitting and eating together at a dinner table, has a positive impact on a child’s mental health as they reconnect with family members through conversation about their day.
- For those family members that children are not able to see, weekly online catch ups offer an opportunity for children to continue to build positive relationships with their wider family. Perhaps combined with an activity such as baking together online or reading a book together will all help a child build a sense of self and belonging. Apps like Caribu have been designed to enable long distance reading with family members.
- Having a friendship group that they see outside of school is also important, adults like to interact with our peers so do children. Arranging playdates and activities can provide useful opportunities for children to interact with other children and again develops their communication and social skills. With these challenging times, playdates at the moment might be restricted but considering online options such as a weekly catch up call with their closest friends would all help children feel connected to their social group. Holding these online catch ups in an open part of the house enables close monitoring.
- Praise and recognition plays a huge part in mental health. When children are praised they feel pride, self-worth and a sense of achievement. Recognising their efforts as well as what they achieve is also key here. When children fail teach them to consider:
- What worked?
- What didn't?
- What could be done differently?
- How do parents feel about that not working?
- Is it OK?
- These are all questions that will help them to reflect and understand it is OK to make mistakes and fail, this will inevitably build their resilience.
- Help them set realistic goals. Having something to work towards like learning a new hobby or skill is proven to help mental health if it is managed properly without any pressure. Through discussion, help children to set realistic and achievable goals based on their interests.
- Recognise that it is OK for children to feel sad or angry. Encouraging them to openly discuss these feelings is very easy to say and not always easy to achieve. Here, an important technique is modelling how you manage your emotions. Showing children it is OK to feel a certain way, expressing how you feel in an appropriate way and discussing it openly with them shows them it is OK to talk about our feelings and emotions. It is normal and encouraged. Making them aware that as a parent, are available to listen and want to listen are also key factors in creating an open dialogue.
- Create a safe, positive home environment. Be aware of your child’s media use, both the content and the amount of time spent on screens. This includes TV, movies, Internet, and gaming devices. Now more than ever it is important to know who they might be interacting with on social media and through online games.
- Provide time for physical activity, play, and family activities. Google can provide a wealth of creative ideas: from gardening in small spaces to building dens, a quiet corner for reflection, art activities, exploring nature together, bike rides, making homemade pizzas, playing board games or traditional games like charades or hopscotch. These all provide the opportunity to take a break from the online world and reconnect as a family.
These ideas are meant to be suggestions and not an exhaustive list of things to do, finding out what works for you and your family would be the best practice.
BSKL encourages parents and students to reach out to our staff. Class teachers and form tutors can be great resources, but the school also has dedicated leads available. You can always contact Simon Clarke in Primary, Steven Ashford in Secondary, our our School Counselor.