Research shows that 1 in 5 young people aged 16-24 experience anxiety or depression at any one time.
As awareness of mental health grows we look at how you can support your child
5 ways to support the mental health of a child with SEN
Mental health may seem to be somewhat of a buzz word these days, but research shows that 1 in 5 young people aged 16-24 experience a common mental illness such as anxiety or depression at any one time1.
Children affected by learning challenges are:
How can you as a parent support your child with Special Educational Needs?
1. Talk to your child about mental health
One of the best places to start is by talking about mental health to your child. You may discuss feelings and help give your child the language he or she needs to describe their emotions. You may simply ask questions to ascertain what your child is experiencing – are they anxious? Are they having self-esteem issues? Open dialogue will go a long way to making your child feel heard and supported. Make conversations about mental health a normal part of life – anywhere is a good place to talk; in the car, walking the dog or cooking together. Ask open-ended questions and show empathy rather than trying to offer immediate solutions.
2. Give your child your full attention
When listening, make sure you’re fully present and that your child can feel that they have your undivided attention. Nobody likes to be half-listened to. Ignore or avoid distractions. Maintain eye contact and focus on your child.
3. Familiarise yourself with the signs of poor mental health
Keep in mind that all children are different, but some of the common signs of mental health problems in children include:
Look for clues about feelings: listen to the child’s words, tone of voice and body language.
4. If you’re worried about your child’s mental health, get help
Speak to your GP
As a first course of action, we suggest reaching out to your family doctor. He or she will be able to make a clinical assessment and to listen if your child is willing to talk to them. Your GP will also be able to make specialist referrals for therapy for example, where necessary to assist your child in managing their mental health.
Get in touch with your child’s teacher and/or tutors
Schools and teachers are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of supporting students’ mental health. It is vital that they are made aware that your child is struggling and they will be able to keep an eye on them during this time and provide much-needed additional support and encouragement.
Reach out to Support Organisations
If you feel that you‘d like additional support, get in touch with one of the following organisations that specialise in this field:
5. Take care of your own mental health
This cannot be overemphasized. Children live what they learn and as challenging as it may often be for us as parents, it is imperative that we model healthy habits and show our children what good emotional regulation and self-care looks like. If you feel stressed out, anxious and overwhelmed, make a point of implementing a self-care routine that will assist in providing you with more balanced living. You can also schedule time with a counsellor or therapist to provide you with perspective. Never underestimate the world of good that feeling heard can do for you (and your child).
- McManus et al., 2009, according to a report by the Centre for Mental Health 2018, centreformentalhealth.org.uk
- Emerson & Hatton, 2007, according to a report by the Centre for Mental Health 2018, centreformentalhealth.org.uk
- National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children
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