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This week it’s Children’s Mental Health Week, so we thought we'd ask Dr Hazel Harrison, the creator of Unmind's 'Positive Parenting' series, for some tips to help boost wellbeing in children.
Many of us know how to look after our physical health - teeth brushing, healthy eating, getting good sleep and exercising - but we may be less familiar with the proactive steps we can take to help look after our mental health. During this week, we'll look at some evidence-based tips, taken from the Positive Psychology toolkit, which any parent, grandparent, carer, teacher - or anyone else who cares for children and young people - should find useful.
It can be easy to feel other people’s lives are better than our own, especially when we’re bombarded with perfect images on social media. We can get stuck thinking others are more beautiful, have more money and fun, or simply ‘have more’. And children are just as susceptible as adults to this comparison trap. So how can we help them (and ourselves)?
One idea is to bring attention to what’s working well in your/their life by developing gratitude skills. Here are three ways to do this:
Get children into the habit of writing a short gratitude note when things have gone well, and putting it into a gratitude jar. You can encourage them by modelling the behaviour and doing it yourself (it will boost your mood too!). To help get you started, here’s a 40 second video showing you how to do it.
Older children may prefer to keep a gratitude journal, noting down the things they appreciate and the things that went well for them each day. It can include the positive moments they witnessed too - perhaps good things that happened to their friends that they want to celebrate and give thanks for.
Find a time each day to chat about gratitude. Some parents like to do this before their child goes to sleep, prompting them to talk about what’s gone well that day. Some teachers build the chat into the end-of-school routine, by asking questions like ‘Tell me about someone who’s been kind to you today” or “Tell me about something you feel really thankful for today”.
Building gratitude habits doesn’t mean we diminish, or lack a response to, the struggles and difficult moments that children experience. These moments are really important to talk about too. But, having a time in the day when you focus on the positive can be useful in helping children to keep their thoughts balanced.
If you have a gratitude habit that works for your child, please do share it with us.
And in case you missed it yesterday, we talked about ways to help your children build their strengths.
Tomorrow, you’ll find even more ways to help your child build their wellbeing.
You can find out more about Dr Hazel Harrison and the initial campaign we're sharing again over this week on her website.