Is mental health a new buzz word or parents should start thinking about it more seriously?
As a parent, I come across more and more discussion about mental health issues. Senior schools introduce mental health counsellors, junior schools talk to students about stress and how to manage it, teens talk about depression and suicide is the leading cause of death among young people in the UK (see here).
What did change from the time we were growing up that makes our children emotional and psychological well-being more vulnerable? I think one of the reasons is that we are losing our skill to connect with ourselves as we are getting more connected with the outside world.
Nobody really is bored anymore as digital entertainment is always available; being bored though allows time to reflect and look inwards. We rely more often on other people’s approval of how we look and our experiences through social media. We even feel under pressure to live up to our own digital self which is always perfect (see the article by Sabrinna Barr here). And of course, we always see other people’s life through the filter of social posts: even though we know it is not real, it makes us feel that we are missing out.
I am embracing modern technology and social media as it is here to stay (as you can see in this newsletter we even introduced Instagram currency at 3 House Club) but I have to teach my children new skills on how to become a balanced adult in a world that is always “on”.
Obvious part of my parental responsibly is to teach my children the difference between real and online reality as well as the rules of online behaviour. But I’m also becoming a supporter of introducing my children (and parents) to mindfulness.
I have to confess that when my husband started practising meditation last year and gently introduced it to our children (using Headspace app), I was very sceptical. However, the more I look into the subject, the more I appreciate that there is a scientific proof that mindfulness helps to reduce anxiety and calm people down (see here). More importantly, the meditation practice cultivates greater self-awareness and awareness of others.
So how can we teach our children to connect with their own feelings? I would start with reading Sitting Still like a Frog by Eline Snel. The book wonderfully explains the benefits of meditation and provides practical exercises to introduce simple techniques to children from 5 years old.
In the book, you will find games to learn being in the moment (like exploring food flavours with closed eyes), tips of how to teach children express emotions (like making mood weather reports) and have short playful ways to start proper meditation. You can also buy the whole book in the audio format). Headspace app is also a helpful tool to use with the children before going to bed.
If you decide to try out meditation with your children, an important thing to remember is to keep exercises light-hearted. Mindfulness should be fun and not resisted otherwise one defeats the purpose. Good luck and do share what works for your family.