May is mental health awareness month and our children’s mental health is as important to safeguard as their physical health.
We’ve spoken before about the damage that not having your talent recognised does to Gifted and Talented children (and adults), but even when you do recognise and support your children’s abilities, they can still fall foul of the mental health goblins.
I think it’s important to recognise that, while giving our children the opportunities to explore their gifts, we also need to make sure that they have ‘down time’. Time when they are not racing somewhere to do something. Time when they are not being expected (by themselves or by us) to be busy creating an app, practicing their musical skills or reading Goethe in the original German.
Mindfulness is still en vogue as a way to de-clutter and still the mind. There are mindfulness groups all over the country and many of them for children. If you think your child could benefit from mindfulness meditation, but there isn’t a course offered for children near you, you can always ask the practitioner to start one. Most will be happy to oblige.
Apart from mindfulness and meditation (of any type), just getting out and going for a walk is a wonderful way to de-compress. I must admit that, while I love walking, I love it less in Ireland than I do in other (warmer) places.
Reading is another great way to de-compress. My ten year old has a stack of what she calls ‘mindless’ books. Books she enjoys but aren’t particularly ‘worthy’ reads. They are pure escapism – like the Lemony Snicket’s ‘A Series of Unfortunate Events’ – and don’t require to engage her brain.
Crafting is another way to de-stress, and I have to say it’s one of my favourites. My favorite craft is knitting and I love the portability of the craft (I love rug-hooking, too, but it’s hard to bring that with you – especially on a plane!). There is an excellent post here on the health benefits of yarn-crafting. Again, if these aren’t skills you already have, there are plenty of places in local communities where you can learn them.
Finally, one of the best ways to keep your mental health in good shape is to talk about it. For some people, this can be harder than talking about sex but it’s just as important. Start small – talk about the things that stress you out and what you do to de-stress – then encourage your child or teenager to do the same. If you, or they, need help, there are many organisations ready, able and willing to do so. Here’s a short list:
If you think that you or your child is dealing with something more complicated or complex than stress, please reach out to a professional; your GP can help, as can a qualified therapist (and there are many types – Creative Therapists can work wonders). An issue such as depression, an anxiety-based issue or a condition like schizophrenia , however, is going to need more than a ball of yarn, a long walk or a good book (although they can still help).