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It's Children's Mental Health Week!

It's Children's Mental Health Week!

Published on Monday, 01 February 2021

Posted in News

The topic for Children’s Mental Health Week (1st-7th Feb) 2021 is ‘Express Yourself’.

This past year has been a difficult one for us all, and if you have kids at home, I’m sure you have felt worried for their wellbeing. Not just about protecting their physical health, but the effect the pandemic has had on their minds. With them hearing all about the ‘germs’, not able to see grandparents, not able to go to school and have routine and normality. Maybe they have asked when they can see their friends or when the world will be normal again and you don’t know what to say. Maybe they have had nightmares, or gave you other reasons for being concerned that they are struggling with all of this. Or perhaps they have expressed a lot of positives from lockdown like more time with their parents/carers and pets.

For tips on how to support your child’s mental health through COVID-19 please click here.

We don’t always know what is going on in a child’s mind. Sometimes questioning them about how they are feeling can lead to a great conversation, and sometimes it can leave you more confused than before. Very often children voice what is going on inside their minds; their worries, fears, dreams, thoughts, and ideas, etc. through being creative, or their behaviour, play, or even silence. Whether that be a picture they have drawn, an imaginary game they are playing, refusing to do something that they usually enjoyed, or a random sentence that comes out of nowhere. Perhaps encouraging them to express themselves creatively could be a great opportunity for them to have complete freedom to debrief on this past year.

“It’s really important to remember that being able to express yourself is not about being the best at something, or putting on a performance for others. It is about finding a way to show who you are, and how you see the world, that can help you feel good about yourself.” – (www.childrensmentalhealthweek.org.uk)

Tips to encourage your child to express themselves, and to create an environment for them to open up to you this week, can include:

  • Engaging in an activity that you know your child already enjoys e.g. drawing, baking or dancing.
  • Or try an online tutorial for something new that your child perhaps hasn’t tried before such as knitting or pottery. There are amazing free tutorials on YouTube and artists offering zoom classes online.
  • Participate in the activity yourself so that they know when they talk you will be listening. Give them eye contact and limit distractions such as screens.
  • Not every child will have interest in or see themselves as very creative. It is advised to encourage the process rather than the result. Always use uplifting language when assisting them and stay close during the activity so opportunities of conversation and explanation from them are not missed.

What is AWARE doing for Children’s mental health week 2021?

AWARE is launching ‘Express Yourself’ A children’s mental health poetry competition with primary 6 & 7 students across Northern Ireland. This is an opportunity to encourage the future generation to talk openly about what is going on inside their minds before they navigate into their teenage years. We hope that this campaign will start many valuable conversations of mental health in classrooms and homes across the country so that this topic is normalised and can be discussed in the future without stigma. For more information on this competition and how to take part click here

AWARE also delivers a 6-week mindfulness course for primary 6 & 7 classes called ‘Paws b’. The programme was designed by the Mindfulness In Schools Project (MISP) and is taught with striking visuals, film clips, and activities that bring mindfulness to life without losing the expertise and integrity of classic mindfulness teaching. Evidence-based research has confirmed the positive effects of mindfulness practice for children to be astounding.

Paws b aims to give students Mindfulness as a life-skill and use it to help them: 

  • feel happier, calmer and more fulfilled
  • get on better with others
  • help them concentrate 
  • help cope with stress and anxiety
  • support performance such as music and sport

To book a mindfulness course for your school please email sharon@aware-ni.org.