Understanding children's mental health & emotional wellbeing

Promoting Mental Health and Resilience

Some general ways of promoting mental health and resilience in children and young people includes encouraging them to:
  • Have an active lifestyle and take part in regular physical activity
  • Have a good diet
  • Have regular sleep patterns

What else helps children and young people’s mental health?

  • Praise any achievements and reward them: Praising achievements is important as this is how to increase the behaviour that you want to see, and use of rewards will reinforce this
    Set clear limits and consistent rules with consistent follow-through: Children need to be made aware of rules, don’t assume they already know them. Tell them the rules when you get the chance.  It is usually best to do this when things are quiet, not just when the child is being aggressive or anti-social
    Use consequences: Consequences are best used selectively as too many consequences can result in the child being unable to find an opportunity to display the behaviour that you are wanting. Remember, when a child accepts a consequence without much moaning and groaning, this is another opportunity to use praise and encouragement
  • Understanding/Empathy: Think– what’s it like to be a child/young person these days? It will not be the same as when you were child, but you will remember enough of your childhood to know what was frightening or comforting – these things tend not to change
  • Develop trust: A young person who has been let down, been abused, suffered many losses etc. may not feel able to trust the most well-intentioned adult. Establishing trust can take a long time and the process may have many ups and downs, but stick in there
  • Engage in ‘Active listening’: this is more than just ‘listening’. It includes paying attention and proving this by paraphrasing what is said back to the child/young person, reflecting the emotions that you are hearing/seeing and using body language to convey your interest e.g. lean towards the child/young person, or if the child is smaller than you, bend or sit down so that you are on the same level
  • Use open questions: open questions are those that allow some explanation in response, rather than a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. As a child is giving you an explanation, remember to keep conveying your interest, looking at them, nodding occasionally, encouraging them to talk more
  • Never promise to keep a secret: promising this and then having to break this will affect the child’s trust of you, and all adults in the future. If something needs to be told to someone else, give the child a choice in how this is done
  • Set Boundaries: is very important that children/young people know what they can and can’t do and what is expected of their behaviour. It is always better to reframe what they can’t do into what they are expected to do e.g. instead of ‘don’t hit others’ , try ‘treat others as you would want to be treated’
  • Be consistent: don’t change the boundaries because you’re having a bad day and want to take the line of least resistance! When setting boundaries, it is normal for children and young people to push at them – to see if they really exist! If they are able to push and push and there is no stopping, then that is not a boundary and will feel very unsafe to them. All children need and actually like boundaries as they make them feel safe in the world