Emotional wellbeing is often a complex issue. Trying to work out what’s going on or why things are the way they are can often be very difficult for any parent/carer.
Children and young people can have lots of different emotional health and wellbeing issues ranging from low mood, anxiety, unhealthy eating patterns or self-harming behaviour.
It is important children and young people better understand the issues they are facing and to develop appropriate skills which can enable them to cope better in the future. For example sometimes anxious thoughts and being angry are quite normal and healthy, but we need to recognise when these become a problem in daily life and learn strategies to help us work through our feelings.
Tips for helping your child/young person to understand, express and manage their emotions:
- Encourage them to talk about their feelings and emotions and create a safe environment for this.
- Normalise emotions and encourage acceptance. You could teach your child about the fight/flight/freeze response. Avoid judgement or criticism. Explain that we all feel emotions like anger and sadness from time to time.
- With regards to books and films, use open ended questions to talk about feelings and emotions presented.
- Notice and label what your child is feeling (e.g. ‘it seems to me that you are upset. Would you like to talk about it?’… ‘you look worried’)
- Encourage them to complete a mood diary so they can spot patterns and make links with their daily activities e.g. on the days they are reporting as being happier, explore why that might be- what happens on those days and how that can be explored on other days.
- Model expressing your emotions in a healthy way (e.g. ‘I feel sad today because I didn’t get picked for a special job at work, but it is okay to feel sad and I will feel better soon. I’m going to do some gardening because that always helps me to feel better’).
- Explore alternatives to talking to express feelings e.g. drawing, journaling, creating animations, making music or sporting activities.
- Encourage your child to think of ways to handle their emotions e.g. ‘I know you’re upset that your brother has gone out with his friends. What can we do to make you feel better?’
- Get support from others if you think it is appropriate. Starting points might be talking to staff at school the school nurse or your GP.
- Create a wellbeing toolkit with your child. Decorate a shoe box together and gather items to put in it that will help your child to feel better or act as a distraction e.g. a stress ball, bubbles, a puzzle, colouring book and crayons, copy of favourite song lyrics etc. Encourage your child to use their toolkit when they are experiencing uncomfortable emotions.