Growing up has never been easy. However, with social media, selfies and 24/7 connectivity to deal with, today’s kids have more on their plate than ever before. As a result of the pressures of modern life, a lot of young people feel anxious, depressed or overwhelmed at some point in their lives.
For parents, supporting kids who are going through challenging emotional situations isn’t always easy. However, with a little support often going a long way, learning how to help kids get through both short- and long-term issues is essential.
Children and mental health
Although we all want our kids to enjoy happy, carefree childhoods, unfortunately, this isn’t always possible. Increasing numbers of kids in the UK are suffering from anxiety, depression and other mental health conditions. Addressing these issues, and finding ways to support these children as they grow up, is essential if today’s kids are going to turn into tomorrow’s happy adults.
Keeping the lines of communication open isn’t always easy, especially if your kids are teenagers. However, the more you talk to your children and the more open you are with them, the more likely they’ll be to confide in you if something is worrying them. Try to find activities that you both enjoy that you can do together. From playing computer games to working on creative projects, there are lots of activities that kids and adults can tackle together.
Communication often becomes easier the more time you spend with your kids. Instead of letting everyone play on their own phones and devices after school, try to get the whole family together in the evening to watch a film or TV programme. Eating together around a table has also been shown to help reduce levels of depression in both kids and adults and make family members feel less lonely.
If you’re struggling to open lines of communication with your kids, think about attending a counselling session together as a family. This might help to get the ball rolling and should give you a few useful communication strategies that you can use at home.
Exercise has been shown to be hugely beneficial to mental health. With record numbers of kids doing less than the recommended level of daily activity, a lack of exercise could be having a real impact on today’s teenagers.
If you think your kids could benefit from a few endorphins, encourage them to take up a sport, join the gym or get out for a run. The chemicals that are released when we exercise help us to feel happy, healthy and relaxed, so the more sport your kids do, the better.
What’s more, joining a sports team is a great way to meet new friends. If your kids have been feeling lonely, anxious or depressed, these benefits could have a huge impact on their mental wellbeing.
Social media savvy
Technology and social media, in particular, is behind a lot of the emotional challenges today’s kids face. Spending time on social media can leave kids vulnerable to cyberbullying and can cause them to lose self-confidence and be overly critical about their looks or achievements.
Limiting the amount of time kids spend on social media and monitoring which social media platforms they use, can help to reduce the negative impact of the medium. Although this may be more difficult for parents with older kids and teenagers, those with younger kids should limit the amount of social media they’re exposed to.
It’s also important that you talk to your children about the dangers of social media and talking to strangers online. These days, a lot of computer games are played via WiFi and kids can easily end up talking to people from around the world as they go from level to level.
Make sure your kids understand that they should never give out photos or personal information to people they meet online. It’s also important to ensure your kids understand that the images they post on the internet will be there forever, so they need to be careful about what they share with their friends.
You could also explain to your kids that the photos they see online are often edited or augmented. If kids understand that the lives of the people they follow on Instagram, Snapchat and other platforms aren’t necessarily real, they may be less likely to compare themselves to people living in the digital world.
Although you don’t want to worry children or make them anxious, teaching them about digital safety is incredibly important if they’re going to stay safe when they’re online.
If you’re unsure which platforms are suitable for kids, talk to your child’s school or speak to other parents about what they allow.
Time away from tech
Taking time away from tech can be fantastic for the emotional and mental wellbeing of young people. Getting out into the fresh air, or just chatting with friends, can help to reduce levels of stress, boost creativity and improve children’s moods.
If possible, try to limit the number of hours your kids spend on phones, tablets or other devices every day. Make clear rules and set clear boundaries so that your kids know there’s no getting around it. When they’re not occupied with tech, try to encourage your kids to use their imaginations or get outside and get active.
If you want to support your kids and set a good example, why not reduce the amount of time you spend on tech yourself? If your kids see you constantly on your phone, tablet or laptop, they’ll be more likely to crave tech themselves. However, if you’re baking, getting creative, exercising, spending time with friends or just reading a book, your kids will see that there’s more to life than screens.
Although it’s not always easy, supporting your kids emotionally is essential if they’re going to grow up into happy, healthy adults. Why not start planning a few activities now and see if you can reconnect with your kids this weekend?