What we can all learn from Children's Mental Health Week

Thursday, 6th January 2022, 5:12 pm
Updated Thursday, 6th January 2022, 5:13 pm

Children's Mental Health Week explores growing together

If the pandemic has made one thing crystal clear it’s that we all have to look after our mental health - especially our children.

One in six children and young people have a diagnosable mental health problem, and many more struggle with challenges from bullying to bereavement, according to Place2Be.

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The charity, which provides counselling and mental health support and training in UK schools,is the driving force behind Children’s Mental Health Week (February 7-13).

This year’s campaign focuses on ‘growing together’; growing emotionally and finding ways to help each other grow.

“Physical growth is easy to see, but growing emotionally is just as important as we learn to cope with life’s ups and downs,” said Dr Niki Cooper, clinical director at Place2Be.

“As adults, we know that challenges and set-backs can help us to develop and adapt. Trying new things can help us to move beyond our comfort zone into a new realm of possibility and potential.

“However, emotional growth is not linear and sometimes we might feel a bit ‘stuck’. At these times we are reminded of how much we need others in our lives to help us to keep growing.”

The charity is encouraging children, adults and school communities to explore how they have grown together, and to celebrate how, even through difficult challenges, with the right support, they can continue to grow and even flourish.

“We grow all the time in many different ways,” said Julia Clements, principal educational psychologist at Place2Be.

“Growth isn’t just about getting taller or stronger – we also grow emotionally. For example, when we try new things or face challenges like joining a new club, starting a new school, or saying sorry when we’ve got something wrong.

“These things can help us to grow socially and emotionally, even though they may feel hard at the time. Sometimes growth can be slow and gradual so it can be difficult to spot when we’re changing and growing.

“But each time we try something new or face a difficulty we are making a small step that helps us to grow emotionally. For example, it can be daunting to read aloud in class or take part in an assembly, but putting your hand up in class could be a small step towards gaining the confidence to speak in front of others.

“During the pandemic, people have sometimes felt a bit ‘stuck’ or as if their lives have been ‘put on hold’. Despite this, many individuals, groups, families and school communities have managed to ‘keep going and keep growing’.

“Recent times have reminded us of how much we need others in our lives to help us to keep growing, especially when things get tough.”

Good self-esteem can make a big difference to a child’s overall well-being, and is something they can take with them as they learn and grow.

Need2Know Books takes a look at some of the factors that can have a negative effect on a child’s self-esteem and, their mental health.

Low self-esteem can often become an issue for children as they enter their tween and teen years, even if they had relatively high self-esteem as young children.

Children who suffer from low self-esteem often suffer from bullying and mental health issues such as self-harm, anorexia, and depression.

Pre-adolescence is an especially challenging time for many children and families, and there are a number of interrelated reasons for this.

Self-esteem is something that comes into play as early as infancy. It’s something that grows and changes over a long time.

When a parent shows they’re proud, pays attention, encourages their child’s efforts, and gives them smiles, their self-esteem grows.

Just making sure a baby feels accepted, protected and loved can build the foundations for healthy self-esteem. Loving care and positive interactions are a key part of this.

A child with good self-esteem is one that feels confident; feels that they have skills to be proud of; has a good level of self-belief; thinks good things about themselves; feels accepted and loved.

Children with low self-esteem feel they’re not as good as other children; ignore their successes and focus on their failures; underestimate their abilities, lack confidence; are hard on themselves and judge themselves harshly.

Children will begin to pick up on disappointment in the adults around them if they don’t meet the expectations that are set for them.

Self-esteem may remain high if this disappointment is coming from someone the child doesn’t like.

Low self-esteem may become an issue, however, if the child believes that a beloved parent or trusted coach is disappointed in them.

Feelings of inferiority can quickly develop if a child comes to realise that their efforts aren’t always as good as those of their peers.

Low self-esteem doesn’t always come about as a result, but it can.

Self-esteem is less likely to be affected if the child’s weaker performance occurs in a domain they don’t value.

Low self-esteem becomes a higher risk if the child struggles in an area they find important.

As a child grows and approaches adolescence, performance pressure also grows.

Whether an effort is excellent or weak, small or large, children in early and middle childhood will often receive praise.

Performance starts to matter more than effort as the teen years approach, and adults come to expect more from children.

This means many older children will notice adults making the same unhealthy comparisons they’re dealing with internally, reinforcing that pressure.

Need2Know Books explains why self-esteem is so important

Your child is more likely to have the confidence to try new things if they feel good about themselves.

They’re more likely to apply themselves fully. They will feel pride in their achievements and cope with their mistakes more healthily.

Even if they fail at first, children with good self-esteem will be able to try again. This means their social, school, and home lives will generally go more smoothly.

Making a child feel worthwhile and appreciated, and warm and loving relationships form the foundation of a child’s self-esteem.

Interacting with your child in a responsive, caring way is key to building this relationship.

You can also give your child a sense of belonging by building family rituals into your relationship.

To find out more about Children’s Mental Health Week, visit:  www.childrensmentalhealthweek.org.uk/

Need2know Books has essential guides that cover issues of mental health such as anorexia, self-harm, and depression. Visit: www.need2knowbooks.co.uk for further information.