28 June 2022

Mental health conversation starters: 14–18 years

In this time of growth into adulthood, your teen is developing a unique personality and is looking for more independence and responsibility. Teenagers increasingly interact with others through social media and mobile phones. As a result, they may spend less time with family and more time with friends, both online and outside the home. This is also…, Teens can experience, Rapid physical changes which can lead to concerns about body size, shape or weight. Eating problems or concerns. Heightened moodiness and social anxiety. Sadness or depression, which can lead to low self-esteem or other problems.  , More than just feeling blue, Poor mental health in adolescence can go hand-in-hand with other health and behavioural risks, including alcohol or drug use, violent behaviour and unsafe sex. Because many health behaviours and habits carry over from adolescence into adult years, it is very important to support teens in choosing healthy practices that assist their well-being.  , “How are you doing?, You might be getting on well with your teen, or you might be experiencing challenges. Wherever your relationship currently is, it’s important to show that you are always there to help your teen through any tough times with love and support.  , How to start the conversation , Ask them about their day – try to create occasions for a chat like cooking dinner together. Ask open-ended, clarifying questions to understand how they feel. You could try “Could you explain what you mean by…” or “How do you think you would have felt if…” Ask about their opinions and even share your own so that you can understand each other better…, Self-harm, If you are concerned self harm may be an issue, gently raise the subject and try to find out if your teen has ever had thoughts of this. It can help to start by asking about others rather than them, for example, “Some people your age harm themselves, have you ever heard of people doing this from your friends?”. Reassure them that you are always…, Do, Recognize the good along with the bad and praise them for achievements, even small ones. This stage of development is also a time for creativity and personal growth – identify instances of this with your teen. The world feels unpredictable to your teen and they might be struggling to feel in control. Tell them you understand this. Check in on…, Don’t, Take over the discussion and tell them what to do. Ask what you can do to help and work with them to find solutions. Have a discussion when you are angry. Walk away, take a breath and calm down – you can continue the conversation later. Engage in power struggles. Rather than arguing, try to empathize with your teen on their frustrations., Remember: It’s all connected, The good news is that teens are resilient and difficult experiences are part of becoming independent, capable adults. Helping teens feel connected to school, family and friends promotes mental health and prevents a range of negative behaviours, like drug use and violence. Take the time to find ways to support, encourage and engage with your teen.…
28 June 2022

Mental health conversation starters: 11–13 years

As your child enters puberty, they are better able to express their feelings, and have a stronger sense of right and wrong. They can make their own choices about friends, sports and school. With this independence comes a bigger focus on their own personality, interests and friends. They are also undergoing many physical changes like the starting…, A time of change, Rapid physical changes combined with concerns about their appearance and the importance of friendships can affect a child’s mental and emotional well-being. It can be a challenging time for children as they navigate this important stage of development. Knowing that they can talk to you about their worries or problems can make a world of difference…, Children at this age can, Experience moodiness – going back and forth between highs and lows. Feel burdened by schoolwork. Develop eating problems/concerns. Feel sad or anxious which can lead to lack of confidence, low self-esteem and other issues depending on the child.  , How to start the conversation , Make the time and space to start the conversation without any pressure or expectations. Consider a time like while doing chores, cooking or while travelling together. Let the conversation flow naturally – be conversational rather than ‘questioning’. Be sensitive to their mood – if they are having a bad day or are busy, choose a different time.  , Open, honest and direct communication, If you notice changes in your child’s mood or behaviour, gently let them know you’ve noticed and ask if they would like to talk about it. For example: They don’t seem as sociable with their friends as before – did they have an argument? Their school grades go down – is there a particular subject they’re struggling with? They appear to have become…, Do, Listen: Actively try to listen to what they are saying without letting your thoughts and judgement guide the conversation. Respect and encourage your child’s opinion. Acknowledge: Assure them that you understand their thoughts and feelings, encourage them to be open with you and reassure that you are there for them. Remind them that you were this…, Don’t, Tell them what they should do. Instead, ask how you can help them. Dismiss or minimize their feelings. Remember, it is hard to open up about feelings which may be confusing for the child. Argue. Observe your own thoughts and feelings and watch out for conflict. Try and resolve any conflicts or arguments as soon as possible if this happens,…, Remember: Patience and consistency are key, At this age, your child might be expressing less affection towards you and sometimes seem rude or short-tempered. As they become more independent and want to be more in control, chances are you will encounter resistance from them at times. These conversations are new and can sometimes be uncomfortable for your child. Remember, it may take some…
28 June 2022

Mental health conversation starters: 6–10 years

As your child starts school, their physical, mental and social skills are developing rapidly. They are learning to describe experiences and talk more about their emotions. Friendships and peer pressure start becoming more important as they shift their focus from home to the world outside. By spending more time outside home, your child is gaining a…, Time to check in, Starting school brings children face-to-face with the outside world and is a major life event! It is a critical time for children to develop confidence in all areas of life, such as navigating relationships, learning at school and sports, and managing their emotions. Checking in on how they’re doing and supporting them along the way can help them…, How to start the conversation, Start by asking how they’re doing. Talk to your child about school, friends, the things they like and dislike doing and what they find difficult. Use everyday events that cause positive and negative emotions – like winning at sports or scoring low grades – to check in on how your child feels and to forge a strong bond with them. As they get older…, Maintain an open, trusting and loving environment, Help your child feel comfortable about opening up to you. Your child wants to be liked and accepted by people around them. Being accepted by you is the first step toward building confidence. Be mindful of the examples you set. Your child looks to you and picks up on your emotions and how you respond to different situations. Recognize their…, Remember: Your time is a precious gift for your child, Saying “I love you” or hugging your child are not the only ways to show affection. Really listen and show a genuine interest in what they have to say. Have fun together with special activities no matter how small. Include them in family decisions like what to eat for dinner. Let them know that you love them no matter what, even when they make…
28 June 2022

How to prepare your child for a lifetime of positive mental health: 0–5 years

From the first smile and first step to experiencing a whole range of emotions, your child is passing many important childhood milestones. This is a time of growth and learning and an ideal time to start supporting your child’s mental well-being., Laying the foundations for a happy and healthy life, Your child looks to you for love, learning and safety. Try to spend as much quality time together as possible. Fostering a warm and tender relationship, and helping your child feel safe and cared for, go a long way to laying the groundwork for a lifetime of good mental health., Babies, Spending quality time with your child is good for both of you. It even releases natural hormones that help you bond with your baby and enhance well-being for both of you! Play with them, cuddle them. Talk to them, sing to them. Respond to their sounds with words so they can begin to understand language and communication., Toddlers, As your child starts to move around more, their desire to explore is increasing. This curiosity needs nurturing and encouragement. Read to your child (every day if you can). Play games that engage their curiosity and learning. Ask your child to name things – start with their name and objects around them, keep it simple. Explore the surroundings…, Pre-schoolers, As your child grows more independent and curious, they will want to explore the world outside and learn about the things around them. Interactions with people will help them develop their own ways of thinking and understand the world around them. Encourage social interaction through play with other children. Invite them to help you with simple age…, What to look out for, Young children are learning how to express themselves and manage big emotions. This can sometimes cause anger or stress when they cannot communicate their needs. When children feel stressed or overwhelmed, they need a loving adult to help reassure them and help them to navigate their feelings., Avoid..., Any form of violence, including shouting and hitting. When a child lives in a negative environment it can cause “toxic stress” – harming the child’s growth and development – as well as long term problems in later life. Frequent arguments between parents and people around the child. Tension in the environment can be stressful for children – they…, Remember: Take care of yourself as well, Whether you are a parent of a baby or toddler, you will experience a wide range of emotions at different times – this is normal. Emotions include joy, frustration, fatigue and nervousness. Whenever you feel overwhelmed, take time to manage your own stress. Make sure you’ve got good social support around you. Try to have some alone time, so you can…
24 January 2022

What we know about the Omicron variant

People around the world are concerned about the Omicron variant of COVID-19. We’ve gathered the latest expert information about this new variant and will continue to update this article as more information becomes available. For more tips and information on COVID-19, see our  COVID-19 guide for parents . Last updated: 17 December 2021, What is the Omicron variant? , The Omicron variant of COVID-19 has been called a variant of concern by WHO based on the evidence that it has several mutations that may have an impact on how it behaves. There is still substantial uncertainty regarding Omicron and a lot of research underway to evaluate its transmissibility, severity and reinfection risk.  , How did the Omicron variant develop? , When a virus is circulating widely and causing numerous infections, the likelihood of the virus mutating increases. The more opportunities a virus has to spread, the more opportunities it has to undergo changes. New variants like Omicron are a reminder that the COVID-19 pandemic is far from over. It is therefore essential that people get the…, Where is the Omicron variant present? , The Omicron variant has now been detected in many countries around the world. WHO reports that Omicron is probably in most countries, even if it hasn’t been detected yet.  , Is the Omicron variant more severe than other COVID-19 variants? , Early findings suggest that Omicron might be less severe than the Delta variant, but more data is needed and WHO warns that it should not be dismissed as “mild”. Studies are ongoing and this information will be updated as it becomes available.  It is important to remember that all variants of COVID-19 can cause severe disease or death, including…, Is the Omicron variant more contagious? , Omicron is spreading more quickly than other variants. Based on the information available, WHO believes it is likely that Omicron will outpace the Delta variant where there is COVID-19 transmission in the community.  However, being vaccinated and taking precautions such as avoiding crowded spaces, keeping your distance from others and wearing a…, Does the Omicron variant cause different symptoms?  , There is no information to suggest that Omicron causes different COVID-19 symptoms from other COVID-19 variants.  , Are the COVID-19 vaccines effective against the Omicron variant?  , Researchers are looking into any potential impact the Omicron variant has on the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines. Information is still limited, but there may be a small reduction in the effectiveness of vaccines against severe illness and death, and a decline in preventing mild disease and infection. However, WHO reports that so far it looks…, Is a prior COVID-19 infection effective against the Omicron variant?, WHO reports that early evidence suggests that previous infection could offer less protection against Omicron in comparison to other variants of concern, such as Delta. Information is still limited though and we will share updates as it becomes available. You should get vaccinated even if you’ve previously had COVID-19. While people who recover…, Do current COVID-19 tests detect the Omicron variant? , The widely used PCR and antigen-based rapid diagnostic tests continue to detect infection of COVID-19, including Omicron.  , Are children more likely to contract the Omicron variant? , Research is ongoing into Omicron’s transmissibility and we will update as more information becomes available. However, people who are mixing socially and those who are unvaccinated are more susceptible to contracting COVID-19.  , How can I protect myself and my family against the Omicron variant?, The most important thing you can do is reduce your risk of exposure to the virus. To protect yourself and your loved ones, make sure to:  Wear a mask that covers your nose and mouth. Make sure that your hands are clean when you put on and remove your mask. Keep a physical distance of at least 1 metre from others.  Avoid poorly ventilated or…, How can I talk to my child about the Omicron and other COVID-19 variants?, News about COVID-19 and now the Omicron variant is flooding our daily lives and it is only natural that curious young children will have questions – lots of them. Here are some pointers to keep in mind tips for helping to explain what can be a complicated topic in simple and reassuring terms.  Children have a right to know what is going on, but it…