At Unmind, we help people look after their minds and improve their mental health. Knowing that stress plays a role in the development of mental health problems...
Children’s Mental Health Week is coming to an end, so we asked Dr Hazel Harrison, the creator of Unmind's 'Positive Parenting' series, for one final tip 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. Over the last few days, we've looked 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.
Being resilient means bouncing back when you encounter challenges, setbacks or failures. We all go through times when we struggle, so building our resilience is crucial to helping us cope.
One way to build resilience in children is to help them develop a growth mindset. This relates to the belief that our abilities and intelligence can develop with practice, feedback and effort. At the other end of the spectrum is a fixed mindset, the belief that our intelligence is fixed and there isn’t much we can do to change it.
Children with a growth mindset are more likely to try again when they fail at something, and also attempt to learn how they can improve. Research into this ‘gritty’ quality and growth mindset approach shows that learning from failure is one of the crucial tools for success and resilience. In contrast, children with a fixed mindset tend to give up when they encounter failure, believing that they just don’t have what it takes.
Here are three ways to encourage your child to adopt a growth mindset:
Changing the way you talk about intelligence can help your child understand that learning is a process, and that our abilities and traits are not fixed from birth. When your child claims ‘I can’t do this’ (whether they’re talking about a new hobby, their homework, or tying a shoelace), say ‘You can’t do it YET’. Adding this tiny word emphasises the learning process.
Trying new things can be scary, but it’s often less scary when you do it with others. As a family, you might decide to try something new and celebrate your failures when it doesn’t work (the 1st, 2nd, or even 99th time!). Children can learn a lot from hearing adults respond kindly to themselves when things don’t work out - and then from seeing them try again.
Try to find an example that would resonate with them the most, this could be an athlete, a musician or a cartoon character. Explain to your child that none of the people they admire have everything figured out straight away. They had to be prepared to dedicate years to training, sacrificing many things, and learning to accept - and grow from - failure to achieve some accomplishments. These conversations about inspirational people and their achievements can help reinforce the growth mindset message.
Thank you so much for joining us on our 5 days of wellbeing for children. We hope you enjoyed it and the activities we shared. Feel free to share with us how any of these wellbeing activities went - the successes and the failures!
You can find out more about Dr Hazel Harrison and the initial campaign, we've shared over this week, on her website.