Do you worry about a child in your life that experiences stress? It’s no secret that we are seeing a rise in poor mental health amongst children with statistics indicating that 1 in 6 children aged 5-16 are likely to have a mental health problem. The cause is hard to pinpoint. Maybe it’s the decrease in time spent outside or the increase in technology – has there ever been a generation more exposed to global affairs or pressure to fit in with peers on social media? Thankfully there are things we can do to help children manage their stress, as well as our own); all of which are free and accessible.

Go outside

It seems obvious, we know, but being in nature for 20 minutes can help lower your stress hormone cortisol. You can sit, stand or exercise but interacting with nature helps us to decompress. Picture this, your child is feeling stressed about school. You take them down to the local park and make daisy chains or you collect interesting leaves and sticks together. You take your treasures home and draw them or create a collage. For that window of time, there is no pressure or expectation. There isn’t social media or homework or friend dramas. Only the great outdoors.

As well as decreasing stress, Mind says that being in nature has many other benefits, including:

  • improving your mood.
  • reducing feelings of anger.
  • encouraging you to take time out and feel more relaxed.
  • improving your physical health.
  • increasing your confidence and self-esteem.
  • helping you be more active.
  • connecting you to your local community and to new people.

Nurture joy

When we are suffering from poor mental health, often we focus on the negatives. We could write lists about the things that make us anxious, the people who have upset us, or the things we are worrying about. In this headspace, it is easy to forget the things we feel grateful for, not because those things don’t exist, but because we are focused on what is concerning us. The same goes for children.

Because of this, sometimes we have to nurture their joy and help them make time for it. We can do this by:

  • encouraging them to keep a gratitude journal (even writing one thing every day they are grateful for).
  • helping them to practise their hobbies i.e taking them to the local skate park, baking with them, or reading books together without the pressure of targets or being the best.
  • planning things in the future for them to look forward to. This could be visiting the big park with the ducks at the weekend or maybe having a friend over for a sleepover in a few weeks. Stuck for ideas? Check out What’s on in May.

Utilise mindfulness resources

Mindfulness is the process of bring back your mind and body’s attention to the present and observing it without judgement. This can be especially beneficial in moments where we feel overwhelmed and emotionally dysregulated. The best thing about mindfulness is that it’s free and can be done without any props.

Grounding techniques

Ask your child to find five things they can see, four things they can touch, three things they can hear, two things they can smell, and one thing they can taste. This is called the 5,4,3,2,1 technique and can be done in the car on the way to school, right before bed, or whenever your child needs to ground themselves.

Gentle exercises

Movement isn’t always the easiest thing to do when you’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed but the benefits usually help persuade us. Gentle movement such as stretching, light yoga or a short walk around your neighbourhood can help you slow down and put your feelings into perspective. Start small and build up. No one is expecting you to do a 5k run. Looking for somewhere to start? Get your kids involved with Walk to School Week from 15 – 19 May.

Focus on general wellbeing

Help your child take a holistic approach to their mental health by focusing on their wellbeing. Not sure where to start? Find and visit your local library where you can find wellbeing packs filled with health promoting resources including local and national signposting, colouring books and pencils, a pedometer and flashcards. This can help you and your child expand your mental health toolkit and form better coping strategies for going forward.

Need more help supporting your child’s mental health?

CAMHS (Children and Adolescents Mental Health Services) are running workshops for parents and carers to help them better support their child’s mental health. The free webinars are taking place on 16 May 2023.

We hope you add these ideas to your mental health tool belt you help you and your child manage their stress. If you need more support, check out the ideas and resources from our Stress Awareness Month article.