Covid-19 has shown how extraordinarily resilient our children are. They have adjusted to new social distancing restrictions, changes to their learning environments and unprecedented levels of anxiety amongst their peers, parents and teachers. It’s certainly been an opportunity to see children’s resilience skills in action.
For those children with existing mental health conditions like anxiety, depression, OCD and PTSD in particular, this has been a particularly challenging time. And as parents, teachers and carers, there’s a lot we can do to help guide our children through these anxiety-ridden times.
In fact, this is important for building resilience skills that children can apply now, and in later life.
Mental health problems in children are quite common. About one in ten children aged between five and sixteen are diagnosed with a problem every year and about 75% of mental illnesses are thought to start before the age of 25.
Often, mental health conditions like anxiety, OCD and depression begin in early childhood and aren’t always visible to others. If a child doesn’t have the requisite resilience skills to manage their thoughts, fears and worries, these can begin to snowball. The more anxious a child becomes, the more their behaviour will change and symptoms of mental health conditions may develop.
A resilient child may possess many of the same thoughts, fears and worries as other children. However, they will have the skills to understand and manage these thoughts to minimise their impact.
One of the best ways to develop resilience skills in children is to help them feel supported and able to express themselves.
For example, this can include being able to talk about their mental health, freely and without judgement. It can also mean feeling safe to confide in an adult about abuse, bullying or any other negative experiences that could cause distress or anxiety.
As adults, we act as role models for our children, even when we don’t realise they’re watching! So we can encourage children to develop healthy habits, like eating nutritious food, doing regular exercise and practicing self-care by engaging in these habits ourselves. In fact, if children observe their carers looking after themselves, they’ll develop a positive association with self-care.
Set up regular routines for children too, including good sleep habits, positive hygiene practices and structured mealtimes. These routines and good habits can help develop resilient and self-sufficient children.
Nip in the Bud® was set up to encourage awareness about mental health disorders in young children. These relatively common problems often begin in childhood or adolescence and can have wide-ranging and long-lasting effects. They can affect a child’s relationships, their educational attainment and job opportunities.