Julia Clements, principal educational psychologist at Place2Be, shares six tips for supporting our own, and our children’s, mental health during the colder months
CREDIT: This is an edited version of an article that originally appeared on Happiful
The winter months can sometimes be tough on our mental health. This year, children across the UK are also faced with the reality that they cannot see their friends and loved ones due to the national lockdown and school closures.
Our Place2Be mental health professionals – who are based in schools – estimate that 85% of the young people we supported through the first lockdown have been negatively affected by the pandemic.
We know that the last year has been tough for many of us, but especially for children and young people. As a parent or carer you may be worried about your child and how they’ll cope during the winter months, so we’ve compiled some tips to help you promote good mental health for your children.
Focus on the things you can control
Focusing on what might have been, and the things that are out of our control, can be emotionally draining, so try instead to focus on what you can do to help your child feel excited and positive about each day. Maybe you and your child could decide to have your favourite dinner, and you could all dress up for the occasion. Or organise a movie night where your child picks their favourite movie to watch together. You might even create some new family traditions!
Get out and about
As the winter sets in, and the afternoons grow darker, it can be less appealing to head outdoors, but fresh air, natural light and exercise can still be great for our mental health, even in colder weather!
If you’re able to, wrap up warm and try encouraging your child to spend a bit of time outside, even if it is only for a little while. A simple change in scenery can help improve your mood – and can also serve as a valuable break from screen time.
Stay in touch
We are all more limited in who we can spend time with this year, so it’s important we find ways to help children stay in touch with their extended family and friends. Sending photos and short video clips to friends and loved ones can be a fun way to stay connected.
Being at home for a few weeks could be a good opportunity to find a new creative outlet. Being creative is a great way for children and adults to express their feelings, thoughts or ideas. This could be through art, music, writing and poetry, dance and drama, photography and film – any activities that make you feel good. We’ve shared lots of creative activity ideas for families on themes including space, seasons and superheroes.
Keep a diary
If your child is struggling with some difficult feelings it can sometimes be helpful if they write some of their feelings down in a diary, or on their ‘phone. Encourage them to make a note of things that they find helpful, or things that seem to make them feel worse. Writing things down can make them easier to process. Try helping your child to break down any problems into manageable chunks, and approach them one step at a time.
Take time to reflect
The start of a new year is a great time to reflect on the past year. 2020 was a particularly challenging year, but it can be comforting to try and find the positives within a difficult time, no matter how small. It could also be a chance to look forwards and start thinking about the year ahead – what is your child most looking forward to? Is there anything they’d like to achieve this year?