We all know how important physical health is for children, which is why we feed them nutritious food, give them space to run around and take them to the doctor if they are ill.
But what about emotional and mental health? This is just as important as the physical health of a child, but it is not talked about as openly. Why is this?
Good mental health put's children in a better position to deal with the situations they may find themselves in, giving them resilience and helping them to grow into well rounded and healthy adults.
It is a sad statistic that 1 in 10 young children are affected by mental health problems according to the Mental Health Foundation, and this is often a direct response to the events that are currently happening in their lives.
Of those children that are affected, an even scarier fact is that almost three quarters of them do not have any appropriate interventions early enough to prevent the problem from continuing into adulthood.
We all want what is best for our children, and there are several ways in which you can help to keep your child in a good mental state.
As mentioned above, being in good physical health and getting the correct nutrition is very important in keeping the child in a good place mentally. If they are getting exercise regularly, this releases Endorphins, which give you that happy feeling you get from doing something you enjoy. Teaming that with the correct nutrition their body needs to develop and grow, and this will stand them in the best stead for being mentally well too.
Other things you can do are:
Giving them the time and freedom to play, both indoors and outdoors. Children have very active imaginations and allowing them to get lost in that is the key to a healthy mind.
Taking part in local activities designed for young people. This could be anything from book clubs, sports clubs, after school clubs or things like Scouts/Brownies, where they can socialise and learn new skills. Not only will making new friends boost their self esteem, but learning new skills will give them confidence and they will want to keep going back to learn more.
It is important that they also have a good support network at school, and at home. Children have times where they may feel stressed or anxious, such as exams, a new class or friendship fall outs, and it is essential that the school has a good well-being programme in place for any student that may need a little extra help or support from time to time.
Making sure a child has plenty of opportunities to enjoy experiences and finding interests is also good for mental well-being. Days out to local attractions, play areas, or events are all ways your child can become immersed in a new experience and really enjoy themselves.
So, what are the signs to look out for that may suggest a child is struggling with their mental health?
According to the Mayo Clinic, they can be a number of these:
Unexplained Weight Loss.
Physical Symptoms such as headaches or stomach pains.
Physical harm behaviours.
In more extreme cases, there could be substance abuse too.
If you spot any of these signs in your child, or a child you are close to, although it will worry you, please know that there are a number of ways you can deal with it.
If you have a good relationship with the child, sit them down and speak to them. Letting them know that they can come to you with any problems they have may just encourage them to open up.
If this is not an option, speak to your child's doctor or other healthcare professional. They have the ability to refer to specialist services such as Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) and other mental health professionals.
It may also be worth speaking to the child's teacher, school nurse or even their friends to see if they have noticed anything and ask if they can monitor the situation too.
Above all, just letting the child know that you are in their corner will be a big help to them, as they may have felt that they couldn't speak to you about it, or that you wouldn't understand. Knowing you are not going to judge them will make them feel more confident in opening up about what they are experiencing,
If you are a child and you feel like you may be experiencing issues with your mental health, it is important that you tell somebody, such as your parents, a teacher, a doctor or someone else you trust. There are lots of services, people and charities around that will be able to help you, there is no need to feel ashamed or hide it. This doesn't have to be a permanent problem at all!
Find something you enjoy and stick to it, you would be amazed at how much better that can make you feel.