A word from Doug White, retired Clyde School principal

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How can we ease load on mental health of young?

The last couple of years been quite a test of our individual and collective resilience.

Although many of our children have shown a remarkable ability to adapt to a new way of living and learning, there are indicators that all is not well with the health and wellbeing of a significant number of our kids.

The Centre of Informed Futures at the University of Auckland reported that mental health conditions among Kiwi youth have doubled in the last decade and could get worse in the wake of the coronavirus epidemic.

Richie Poulton, one of the report’s authors, concluded “Covid-19 has added fuel to the fire, and protecting and promoting mental wellbeing for youth is now a matter of urgency for the Government and health officials”.

This increase in childhood mental illness is a global issue.

What can we do as parents, teachers, grandparents and other significant people in a child’s life to turn these alarming statistics around?

US psychologist Dr Luis Rojas Marcos in his article “A Silent Tragedy” has offered us some ideas.

He believes children today are being overstimulated and over-gifted with material things, but they are being deprived of the fundamentals of a healthy childhood.

They need:

  • Emotionally available parents. He suggests, for example, parents ditch digital devices at mealtimes. Prioritise talking and listening time. Connect emotionally by smiling, hugging, or playing with them.
  • Clearly defined boundaries. Set rules. Your children will feel safer knowing that you are in control of the helm. Say no if what they want isn’t what they need.
  • Responsibilities. Give your child some household chores and promote independence. Don’t overprotect them against frustration or disappointment. Being wrong and making mistakes helps them develop resilience.
  • Balanced nutrition and sleep. Limit junk food and digital distractions, particularly at bedtime.
  • Movement, especially outdoors. Encourage them to be physically active outside for at least an hour each day.
  • Creative play, social interaction, unstructured play opportunities and spaces for boredom. Boredom is a time when creativity awakens. Become an emotional and social coach by modelling and teaching them how to handle their own frustrations and anger. Teach them to take turns, share, to say thank you and please, to recognise a mistake and apologise when appropriate.