Catherine Roche, chief executive of Place2Be, said:
“We believe no child should face mental health problems alone. We were already seeing an increase in issues before the pandemic and the subsequent isolation, disruption to routines, and fears about the future has all had a damaging impact for some children."
- TALKING IT UP Saying you know they might be feeling anxious without glossing over it, or trying to make it better is something that mental health experts say is critical to letting them open up and talk if they want to. Children are used to teachers giving them affirmation and friends to offload to, so doing something one on one, a walk or a task together might be the opportunity to let them talk.
- MAPPED OUT Routine is always cited as the most effective way of helping young people feel secure. As much as things are up in the air for us all and the regularities of life, such as school and activities are out, it's hard to think of Dr Kilbey, a child psychologist recommends trying to implement a "soft" routine because “it’s very calming for a child’s mental health”. Starting the day and going to bed at the same time, and then having a regular rythmn to the day, like a walk before school starts and everyone sitting down to lunch together etc. Giving some basic outline and reliability but with leeway to stretch the routine if needs be, so it's not stress-inducing in itself.
- BREATHE AWAY Turning the para-sympathetic nervous system on over the sympathetic, or fight or flight mechanism, is an automatic way to de-stress and this can be done with simple breathing techniques. The square breathing method is something I try with my children and they can do alone, simply breathing in through the nose and counting to 5, then breathing out through the mouth, through pursed lips, in ribbons, counting to 5. Increasing oxygen supply, lowering heart rate and grounding all at once.
- MAKE IT UP This year the theme for Child's Mental Health awareness week is Expressing Yourself. Creativity of all kinds has been shown to lower anxiety; the process as well as the pride in completing something, from a drawing or a song, to making a recipe for everyone to share are all successful ways to inspire some calm.
- DRINK UP The basics are more crucial than ever - staying hydrated, getting exercise, being well-rested and eating a colourful diet - all make a difference to our mood, and children can be noticeably more affected by deficiencies in any of these.