This week is Children’s Mental Health Week.
According to the official website, more than half (56%) of children and young people say they worry “all the time” about at least one thing to do with their school life, home life or themselves.
Those getting less sleep are less able to cope with worries, saying they often don’t know what to do when they’re worried (22% vs 18%), and once they start worrying, they cannot stop (36% vs 28%).
These are sad statistics, but are unfortunately becoming more common.
Tom Boyce, professor of paediatrics and psychiatry at the University of California said in the Guardian; “Children are really the canaries in the mineshaft of human society.
“They are the individuals within our cultures that are the most sensitive to the difficulties – and stresses – that societies experience.”
So what can we do to help children build resilience?
- First, look for any changes in their behaviour. Signs of stress or anxiety may include restlessness, irritability, poor concentration, or, as previously mentioned, a lack of sleep.
- Give them a chance to talk. Children may not always want to open up, but allow for it to happen. Try to get into the habit of having chats about how things are going in general.
- Challenge anxious thoughts. If they reveal that there’s something on their mind, is there anything either you are they could do to overcome those thoughts?
This is a form of cognitive behavioural therapy – recognising how negative thoughts, feelings and actions all impact on each other.
For example, after revising hard for an exam but still failing, a child may think of themselves as a failure. They’ll feel anxious about future exams, and be put off studying. As a consequence, they may not revise next time and be caught in a ‘vicious circle’.
It’s important to break that circle – even though they revised, perhaps they concentrated on the wrong thing? What could they do differently next time?
- Remind them there’s no such thing as a perfect situation. There’s a lot of pressure on children and young people, so take the opportunity to remind them that they don’t always have to be perfect. Reward hard work and a positive attitude where possible.
There are many more aspects of resilience that will apply when helping children with stress and anxiety. Building self-esteem, self-efficacy and a locus of control are also incredibly useful tools.
Please note that it’s important to learn how to build resilience in yourself before helping others too.
To learn more, please visit www.bounce-back.com/developing-resilience-course