As part of our ongoing series about mental health, members of Client Server's Mental Health Committee are sharing thoughts about mental wellbeing in and out of work. This week, our Office Manager Lucy White writes about the importance of instilling good mental health habits in children.
Since becoming more involved in mental health awareness at Client Server, it has become apparent to me that everybody is affected by mental health in some form, whether it's themselves or the people around them.
As a mother of two young boys, I have found myself thinking a lot about what it will be like for them as they grow up and how awareness of their mental health may affect their lives or their futures. I've realised that it’s not 'if' but 'when' they will be affected by it. To me, it’s a parent’s responsibility to prepare them as much as possible, as well as recognise the signs.
Becoming a parent was one of the most amazing and daunting experiences of my life. This little person suddenly appears, totally reliant on you to survive. It can feel totally overwhelming and in all honestly, a little scary. To say I was winging parenting, in the beginning, would be completely accurate – it was a successful day if I managed to get everyone through it relatively happy, healthy and unscathed.
As I settled into my new role at Client Server, and they started to get older, one thing became apparent. Everything I was doing, saying and acting was moulding them as little people. I could see myself in them, both good and bad traits. It hit me how much of an influence we as parents have on our children. We are continuously teaching and guiding them in the ways of life right from the very beginning.
We’re always trying to set a good example for them, but if I am totally honest, I hadn’t consciously thought about their mental wellness and how we could encourage good mental health in them at a young age. I started reading articles, mental health websites, and blogs and chatted to other parents about what we could do at home to give them the best possible start. My husband and I came up with a few things we decided to implement at home to help them out:
Communicate : It’s so important to us that the boys feel comfortable enough to talk about their feelings and emotions. Keeping things very open and honest and making time to talk to them both one on one and as a family. We ask questions, listen to them and encourage them to chat with us. Understanding it's ok to feel sad or angry, these emotions are all very normal.
Build Confidence : Being able to deal with difficult or awkward situations, or manage new emotions will come when they start to feel confident in themselves and their own abilities and decisions. We make sure we are praising them and encouraging them where we can, helping them learn to do things for themselves.
Relationships : Strong relationships with friends and family is of the utmost importance to us and always has been. Feeling safe with and trusting the people around them will mean there will always be someone to help or go to if they need it, making sure they feel our unconditional love.
Management : Helping them deal with and manage emotions, and advising them on how to deal with situations that might make them upset or angry. Teaching them there is always a solution and things will feel better.
Physical Health : We eat well and make sure we do lots of activities with them, both indoors and out. We make sure they also have downtime and quiet time among the chaos!
Set an Example : We adults are far from perfect! But we try and set a good example for the boys, make sure we are being open and honest and communicating well with them. We try and be healthy in ourselves too.
I am in no way an expert in this stuff, in fact, I am relatively new to parenting and also new to our Mental Health Committee. But I feel very strongly that children can be guided and influenced from a young age. If we can teach them how to communicate and talk about how they are feeling and how to look after themselves, it will really help them in the future if they come across situations which are difficult.