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In Children’s Mental Health Week, it’s worth reflecting on how parents can best support their children and what they need to do so.
It’s Children’s Mental Health Week. There are other days and weeks devoted to mental health at work, but the two are not mutually exclusive. Mental health issues are a growing problem worldwide and the UK has one of the worst records on children’s happiness. We can all speculate why.
There is certainly a lot to navigate for young people these days, with increased exposure to information, an often hostile, bullying environment on social media and in life generally that trickles down to kids, an increased focus on appearance for girls in particular, exam pressure [letters from school from year seven emphasising that even a day off sick impacts their GCSE scores], not to mention the impact of parental tensions, increasing inequality, knife crime, general gloom about climate change and so on.So what is parents’ role in all this? They too may be stressed and not in the best place mentally due to financial and time pressures.
It is difficult to find the time to talk when you are busy running from place to place. It’s interesting that it is assumed that the time when parents are most likely to reduce their hours is when their children are under five. That is a vital time, of course, but I’ve spoken to many parents who find the later years, particularly the teens, more challenging.
It’s not just about having time to talk about things that might be worrying them; it’s about having time generally to spend together doing fun things, to talk when things are good as well as when things are bad.
The more children you have the more challenging it is to ensure each gets the time they need. You can schedule it in, but no amount of scheduling can equip you to deal with teenagers. There is no schedule for the ups and downs of teenage life.
Dealing with mental health in adolescence can feel like a long haul. It’s very sensitive terrain. All you can do is your best, but having a supportive infrastructure – flexible working [the mutually beneficial kind], a network of friends, after school clubs or whatever it might be, helps tremendously.