This week is Children’s Mental Health week and my son’s school have been taking part in activities surrounding mental health. Exploring emotions and feelings to try and help children better understand why they feel the way they feel, and how to protect their mental health. They have been doing worksheets, games, stories, watching videos and open discussion sessions to promote this.
These activities led to Moo revealing a BIG WORRY that he’d been having for a few weeks and resulted in the Home-School Link phoning me to tell me about it. Moo had lost his flamingo night light behind his headboard around a fortnight ago and was scared to ask me to retrieve it for him because of what else I would find down there. Now I had noticed that I hadn’t seen the flamingo in it’s usual spot, but assumed that he had put it away/moved it/it had run out of battery, and thought that he would come to me if there was an issue. To most this isn’t a big worry, but it was affecting Moo to the point he was shutting down in school and refusing to do his work, at home he had been so well behaved in the hope that I wouldn’t find out. Though I had noticed the behaviour change and that he wasn’t settling at night as well as he normally would. I thought it was just a development thing.
Now Mooey’s bed is one of those IKEA Hemnes Day Beds so moving it when something falls down the back is a BIT of a pain in the arse. So my mind was pretty much focused on how the hell I was going to retrieve this flamingo. But Moo was clearly distressed or else the school wouldn’t have phoned me. So I asked the H-S Link what I would find – he hadn’t told her, so I asked if she could bring him to the phone so I could have a chat with him. At that moment I was a little concerned about what I would find. He came to the phone and wouldn’t talk, a few little quiet noises of affirmation when I asked questions and a couple of grunts…
I’m in the middle of B&M at this time buying my “nephew” a birthday present and knowing I had to rush to find my friend before she drove back to our villages, so I was a little flustered but kept my cool with him not being very responsive.
In the end he revealed that I would find food wrappers. Okay, not as bad as I feared – I remember doing this when I was a child and my Mum told me off for it a lot. In fact it’s a memory that sticks out quite a bit, so I went the opposite direction. I knew what it felt like to be the child scorned for stealing crisps, sweets and treats from the cupboard. I wasn’t mad. I understood, I offered to up his portions, reminded him to ask if he wants extra snacks, and told him to make me a list of his favourites so I could make or buy them for him. I reminded him that stealing was wrong, treats and sweets are rewards for good behaviour and it’s not fair to just take them, and I thanked him for telling the truth. When he got home I had pulled all of the wrappers out from behind his bed, asked him to find a bag and throw them away and we repeated the discussion from our phone call.
Now, how many of you out there would have gotten angry? It’s okay, you can admit it. It’s a natural response to bad behaviour. We need to step back and think about how being told off affected us as children. Did being shouted at us make us feel good? Did it make us feel we could approach our parents and tell them the truth about other things? No, it probably upset us and made us feel insecure and made us wonder who we could trust. I grew up in the days before smacking became illegal/severely frowned upon. I remember getting a hairbrush to the back of my knees or a wooden spoon hit me around the bum when I was naughty. These days we have to be creative with our discipline; naughty step, exclusion from activities, removal of gadgets, removal of favourite toys… we can get so wrapped up in disciplining them for the bad that we forget we need to reward the good and be there for them to open up to too. We need to be inclusive and encourage discussion, we need to protect their mental health and reduce their exposure to unnecessary emotional/mental traumas. They’re going to have enough of the big stuff to deal with in their lives and we need to teach them there is a way around it all, that no matter what we persevere, we keep going forward. We need to teach them to be resilient and resourceful and not to “sweat the small stuff”. If you get too hung up on the little things then the big things will just amplify them and blow everything completely out of proportion.
I took a bit of food stealing as a sign that I need to be doing more for my son, not upsetting him for seeking out what he felt he needed. Some will disagree with me, that’s fine. We all have our own ways of doing things.
Here are some resources if you want some support with your child’s mental health, do some of your own research, or maybe do some activities at home to support your children’s understanding of mental health;
Children’s Mental Health Week
Twinkl – Great teaching resources for parents and schools.
Young Minds – I have contacted them before regarding Mooey’s anxiety episodes.
Time to Change
HappySelf Journal – Mindfulness Journal for Children Aged 6-12
Action For Happiness – They do wonderful monthly activity calendars
That’s all for now!
The Anxious Pixie x