24 October 2023

How to talk to your children about conflict and war

When conflict or war makes the headlines, it can cause feelings such as fear, sadness, anger and anxiety wherever you live. Children always look to their parents for a sense of safety and security – even more so in times of crisis.  Here are some tips on how to approach the conversation with your child and to provide them with support and comfort., 1. Find out what they know and how they feel, Choose a time and place when you can bring it up naturally and your child is more likely to feel comfortable talking freely, such as during a family meal. Try to avoid talking about the topic just before bedtime. A good starting point is to ask your child what they know and how they are feeling. Some children might know little about what is…, 2. Keep it calm and age-appropriate, Children have a right to know what’s going on in the world, but adults also have a responsibility to keep them safe from distress. You know your child best. Use age-appropriate language, watch their reactions, and be sensitive to their level of anxiety. It is normal if you feel sad or worried about what is happening as well. But keep in mind that…, 3. Spread compassion, not stigma, Conflict can often bring with it prejudice and discrimination, whether against a people or country. When talking to your children, avoid labels like “bad people” or “evil” and instead use it as an opportunity to encourage compassion, such as for the families forced to flee their homes. Even if a conflict is happening in a distant country, it can…, 4. Focus on the helpers, It’s important for children to know that people are helping each other with acts of courage and kindness. Find positive stories, such as the first responders assisting people, or young people calling for peace. See if your child would like to participate in taking positive action. Perhaps they could draw a poster or write a poem for peace, or…, 5. Close conversations with care, As you end your conversation, it’s important to make sure that you are not leaving your child in a state of distress. Try to assess their level of anxiety by watching their body language, considering whether they’re using their usual tone of voice and watching their breathing. Remind them that you care and that you’re there to listen and support…, 6. Continue to check in, As news of the conflict continues, you should continue to check in with your child to see how they’re doing. How are they feeling? Do they have any new questions or things they would like to talk about with you? If your child seems worried or anxious about what’s happening, keep an eye out for any changes in how they behave or feel, such as…, 7. Limit the flood of news, Be mindful of how exposed your children are to the news while it's full of alarming headlines and upsetting images. Consider switching off the news around younger children. With older children, you could use it as an opportunity to discuss how much time they spend consuming news and what news sources they trust. Also consider how you talk about…, 8. Take care of yourself, You’ll be able to help your kids better if you’re coping, too. Children will pick up on your own response to the news, so it helps them to know that you are calm and in control. If you’re feeling anxious or upset, take time for yourself and reach out to other family, friends and trusted people. Be mindful of how you’re consuming news: Try…
18 February 2023

How to build your baby's mental health

New babies are a lot of work, and parents experience a wide range of emotions when they have a new baby. They feel joy, frustration, fatigue and nervousness. There's no reason to be frightened of having mixed emotions about a new baby. When should I start thinking about my baby's mental health? How can I promote positive mental health in my family…, I’m about to become a parent. What should I expect in terms of emotions and stress?, Becoming a parent for the first time is a huge transition. It will change everything you do. Every aspect of your life will be different now. And one of the things that we know about stress is that it happens any time we have to adapt to new conditions. And adapting to a new baby is a new condition. So expect stress. That doesn't mean anything is…, At what age should I start thinking about my child’s mental health?, You should start thinking about your child's mental health right from the moment you meet. From the very beginning, your child will look to you for love, learning and safety. When you provide your child a warm and tender relationship, help them to feel protected, comfort them when they're upset and help them navigate the world, that's how you lay…, How does stress affect the emotional development of my child?, There's a stress response that gets activated when babies become frightened or they worry that someone has forgotten them or their needs aren't getting met. Our job as parents is to help them to calm that stress response. When that stress response has calmed, everything goes back to normal and your baby actually learns that the world is a safe and…, How can I learn to show affection and love to my child if I did not grow up with those things myself?, Parenting is hard. It's something that everybody has to learn how to do. And it's something that we can actually do a really good job with if we set our minds to it. There's so much to focus on in becoming a new parent. Here are the things that will make a huge difference and will help make sure that you give your child what you wish you had had…, How can I promote positive mental health in my family?, Decades of research have taught us that what children need are two things: They need home to be warm and they need to feel like people around there like them and they need life at home to be predictable. They need to know what to expect. They need a good sense of structure and reliability around them. So for the warmth part, enjoy your baby, enjoy…, Is it okay for me to show emotions like being angry or sad in front of my children?, You are your child's first teacher and your child's going to learn all about feelings from you. So when you have feelings, especially painful ones, you're going to want to think about how you express them, to express them in a way that is honest but not overwhelming or frightening. And then you're going to want to model how you manage having a…, What should I do when I feel overwhelmed?, What are some coping techniques for dealing with stress. If you're feeling overwhelmed, you should definitely take time to manage your own stress and there are lots of good ways to cope with stress to help bring it under control. First make sure you've got good social support. Everyone needs somebody to tell their worries to, and a person or a…
18 February 2023

Four things you can do to support your teen’s mental health

Whether you and your teen are getting along well or having challenges, it is important to show that you love and support them, that you can help them navigate tough times and that you are always there for them. Here are four things to keep in mind when having that ‘how-are-you-doing?’ conversation with your teen and to show that you are always…, 1. Encourage them to share their feelings, Look for ways to check in with your teen. Ask them how their day has been and what they have been doing. It could be by inviting them to join you in a task, such as preparing dinner, so you can use the time to chat about their day. Remind them that you are there for them, no matter what, and that you want to hear how they are feeling and what they…, 2. Take the time to support them, Work together on setting up new routines and achievable daily goals. You could fit in home chores around school work or set a target like getting homework done before dinner. Adolescence means independence! Try to give your teen the appropriate time and space to be on their own. Needing space is a normal part of growing up. Find a few ways you can…, 3. Work through conflict together, Listen to your teen’s views and try to sort out conflict calmly. Remember: everyone gets stressed! Never discuss an issue while you are angry. Walk away, take a breath and calm down — you can talk with your teen about it later. Avoid power struggles. With the world feeling unpredictable and options looking limited right now, teens might be…, 4. Care for yourself, Caregivers have a lot to deal with. You also need care and support for yourself. Showing self-care is also a good way of modelling the practice to your teen. Don’t wait to ask others for help if you are feeling overwhelmed. It is normal and okay to feel this way. Find a family member or someone you can talk to. Make time for your own relationships…
18 February 2023

Self-care for parents

Parenting is hard. It’s a full-time job and many parents find themselves prioritizing their family’s well-being before their own. When we are able to meet our own mental and physical needs, it not only benefits our well-being, but our children’s as well. But how do you make it happen? We asked three mental health experts, who are also parents, how…, What have you learned about self-care as a parent?, Lisa: Very often, I think parents assume that taking time for themselves means that they are taking time away from their children. But this isn't true. When we care for ourselves, we are better able to care for our children. And caring for ourselves underscores for our children the importance of self-care while also showing them how it's done.…, How do you personally practice self-care?, Sonali: The time I take out for myself is what I call my 'Pause Rituals' – a conscious pause in the day followed by rituals that are self-soothing at a physical, mental and social level. I came up with this term after I struggled with burnout about 10 years ago. The key is to focus on just one thing when engaging in these self-soothing practices…, How do you find time for self-care?, Hina: Time for self-care feels out of reach for me – it literally slips through my fingers as I run around parenting my two young children and completing the tasks of my day job. I always feel on duty. I prioritize self-care by baking it into my routines with my children and at work. When I brush my teeth, I practice mindfulness, while I cook, I…, How has your family benefitted from your self-care?, Lisa: When I'm well-rested and my mind is clear, I am much more patient with my children and a lot more fun to be around. After a good night's sleep, I have energy to play, host a "kitchen dance party," or come up with other ways to enjoy my daughters' company. And when I'm not distracted by my own concerns, I am much better able to focus on my…
07 October 2022

What is stress?

We live in a time of increased stress in the world. Like adults, many children are struggling right now. We’re going through many drastic shifts in the world, but there are many other things that can also lead to stress in children – negative situations at home, violence in schools or exams. Even positive changes like moving to a bigger house or…, What is stress?, Stress is a common feeling we get when we feel under pressure, overwhelmed or unable to cope. Small amounts of stress can be good for us and motivate us to achieve goals like taking an exam or giving a speech. But too much of it, especially when it feels out of control, can negatively impact our mood, physical and mental well-being and…, What causes stress?, Children don’t always experience stress the way adults do. Whereas work-related stress is common among adults, most children experience stress when they cannot cope with threatening, difficult or painful situations. These include: Negative thoughts or feelings about themselves Changes in their bodies like the beginning of puberty The demands of…, Stress in children and adolescents, Stress can be triggered in children when they experience something new or unexpected. For young children, tensions at home such as domestic abuse, separation of parents or the death of a loved one are common causes of stress. School is another common reason – making new friends or taking exams can make children feel overwhelmed. As children grow…, Signs and symptoms of stress, When the body is under stress it produces hormones like adrenaline and cortisol that prepare us for urgent action – also known as the ‘fight or flight’ response. This can have many effects on a child’s mind and body, such as: Physical Shallow breathing, sweating and a racing heart Headaches, dizziness and difficulty sleeping Nausea, indigestion or…, Ways to help your child cope, When children are feeling stressed, parents can play an important role in helping them find ways to cope. Like adults, children sometimes need to be reminded to be kind to themselves. Spot the triggers: Help your child recognize and begin to track the times they felt stressed and look for patterns in how they reacted. What was happening at the…, When to seek professional help, If your child is finding it difficult to cope, consider meeting with a trained expert who can help. Talk to your family doctor or a counsellor for advice. They should be able to advise you on available treatment, such as time with a psychologist who helps people to manage stress and establish positive mental health habits. Don’t be afraid to seek…, Learn more
07 October 2022

What are panic attacks?

A panic attack is an intense feeling of fear and anxiety. It often happens if people feel anxious about something happening in their life or have experienced something difficult or stressful. Panic attacks can feel very frightening, especially for children, but they can usually be stopped with treatment. It’s important to know that a panic attack…, What is a panic attack?, A panic attack is a feeling of fear and anxiety that can overwhelm us quite suddenly and is usually accompanied by intense physical symptoms such as lightheadedness, shortness of breath and a racing heart. Many children feel a sense of terror during an attack, like something bad is about to happen. These feelings can occur even when there is no…, What causes panic attacks?, It is not always clear what causes panic attacks in children or adults. What we know is feeling anxious about something or experiencing something difficult or stressful can cause a panic attack. These situations include: Anxiety caused by a difficult experience at home or school Stress about things like exams, friendships or relationships The…, Panic attacks in children and adolescents, Panic attacks often begin during adolescence, although they may start during childhood. Attacks can lead to severe anxiety, as well as affecting other parts of a child's mood or functioning. Some children begin to avoid situations where they fear a panic attack may occur. Adolescents might use alcohol or drugs to reduce their anxiety. If not…, Signs and symptoms of panic attacks, If your child experiences a panic attack, they might feel out of control with what’s going on around them, scared that their body is in danger or even like they are dying. Our bodies can react in different ways to panic attacks. Some of these reactions include:  Breathlessness, quick breathing or finding it hard to breathe  Light-headedness or a…, Ways to help your child cope, Knowing what triggers an attack is the first step in attacking panic. Ask your child how they feel and what is making them feel anxious or stressed. Are there certain situations or places that cause them to feel panicky? This knowledge can help your child think about what they can do to cope with those situations.  During a panic attack, your…, When to seek professional help, In severe cases of panic attacks, the child or adolescent may be afraid to leave home. If you notice your child showing persisting symptoms of panic attacks, it is time to seek help from your healthcare provider. Children and adolescents with symptoms of panic attacks should first be evaluated by their family doctor or pediatrician. If no other…, Learn more
07 October 2022

What is anxiety?

It is natural for children to feel worried and anxious at times, about things like friendships, speaking in front of a crowd or taking an exam. It’s when the worrying continues and makes everyday life hard that anxiety becomes a problem. The good news is that with the right professional help and through developing positive coping skills, anxiety…, What is anxiety?, Anxiety is the feeling you get when you’re worried or scared about something. It is a natural, human feeling of fear or panic. Afterwards, we usually calm down and feel better. Small amounts of worry and fear can help keep us safe and even protect us from danger. But sometimes anxiety can make us feel like things are worse than they actually are…, What causes anxiety?, It can be hard to pinpoint the exact causes of anxiety. When we face stressful situations, alarm bells go off in our brain telling us something isn’t right and that we need to deal with it. To make the difficult situation go away, our brain makes us more alert, stops us from thinking about other things and even pumps more blood to our legs to help…, Anxiety in children and adolescents, Children can feel anxious about different things at different ages. Many of these worries are a natural part of growing up. From the age of around 6 months to 3 years it's very common for young children to have separation anxiety. They may become clingy and cry when separated from their parents or caregivers. This is a normal stage in a child's…, Signs and symptoms of anxiety , Anxiety symptoms can be complicated and may even arise long after a stressful event. Here are some of the common signs and symptoms: Physical: Shortness of breath, headaches or feeling faint A racing heart and sometimes high blood pressure Feeling fidgety, trembling or feeling weak in the legs Feeling sick in your stomach – cramps, diarrhoea or…, Ways to help your child cope, If your child is feeling anxious, the first thing you can do is remind them is that the feeling will pass. This will help to soothe them and feel less anxious. There are things you can do to help them cope and be better prepared. Explore the feeling together: Ask your child to observe their feelings of anxiety and tell you – what is happening when…, When to seek professional help, If anxiety is impacting your child’s daily life, professional treatment can make a huge difference. Your health-care provider can refer you to a mental health professional for an assessment and advice on treatment that is right for your child. If your child is offered counselling or talk therapy, they can speak with a trained mental health…, Learn more
07 October 2022

What is depression?

All children feel low or down at times, it’s a natural part of growing up. But these emotions can be worrisome when felt intensely over long periods of time, particularly if they affect your child’s social, family and school life. Although it's hard for anyone to feel optimistic when they're depressed, depression can be treated and there are…, What is depression?, Depression is one of the most common types of mental health conditions and often develops alongside anxiety . Depression can be mild and short-lived or severe and long-lasting. Some people are affected by depression only once, while others may experience it multiple times. Depression can lead to suicide, but this is preventable when appropriate…, What causes depression?, Depression can happen as a reaction to something like abuse, violence in school, the death of someone close or family problems like domestic violence or family breakdown. Someone might get depressed after being stressed for a long time. It can also run in the family. Sometimes we may not know why it happens. Icon in children & adolescents, Depression in children and adolescents, Depression can show up in children and adolescents as prolonged periods of unhappiness or irritability. It is quite common among older children and teenagers, but often goes unrecognized. Some children might say they feel “unhappy” or “sad”. Others might say they want to hurt or even kill themselves. Children and adolescents who experience…, Signs and symptoms of depression , Depression can feel different for different children. Here are some of the common signs and symptoms of depression: Physical: Tiredness or low energy, even when rested Restlessness or difficulty concentrating Difficulty in carrying out daily activities Changes in appetite or sleep patterns Aches or pains that have no obvious cause Emotional and…, Ways to help your child cope, Here are some things you can do to support your child if you think they may be depressed: Find out what’s happening: Ask them how they’re feeling and listen openly without judgment or advice. Ask people you trust who know your child, like a favourite teacher or close friend, to find out if they’ve noticed anything that might be worrying them or…, When to seek professional help, As depression can only be diagnosed by a qualified expert, it's important to seek help from your health care provider who may refer your child to a mental health expert or psychiatrist. If the mental health expert thinks your child would benefit from treatment, the options might include some form of talk therapy – where they learn how to manage…, Learn more