Supporting kids with their mental health: A systemic perspective
These last years have really shown us that the world might not be as predictable and as stable as we often think. Many of us have had to deal with massive fears and anxieties and sudden life changes. But one group has definitely had to deal with a lot too: our children and young people.
It’s hard for them to make sense of the world anyway at a younger age. They are just trying to figure out how life works and who they are. To grow up in these highly stressful times, having adults around them that have been and still often are highly stressed and anxious, is very tough and life-changing for them.
So what can we do to support them and hold space for their development in a healthy way?
How to support children and teens development
In my opinion, the overall aim is always to strengthen children and young people in their core so that they can access inner resources throughout all their life and are empowered to grow and evolve. It’s about holding space for them from an early age to find their own solutions and to be creative and curious about their own way of living. This needs adults around them who show an interest in their individual personalities and world views.
We can only build trust in ourselves if we are allowed to try out our own abilities and are also allowed to make so-called mistakes. Really, there are no mistakes, only learning experiences.
If our children and young people can understand and hold that belief, they can approach life without the fear of failure. They can reflect on their life experiences without judging themselves and without holding guilt and shame.
Being a systemic facilitator and life coach, in my sessions, I always look at the whole situation of the child or young person when they experience mental health issues. I include their environment, where their family is at and what is happening there that might have an impact right now.
This has nothing to do with blame or judgement. It’s about finding the causes of stress or mental health issues and then also finding the resources and solutions that are already there in the environment. It also includes looking at their school and social situation as well as the society they are growing up in.
Our societal issues will always have an impact and there isn’t much we can do to change them quickly. But we can certainly look at our schools and our family environment to make them supportive spaces for children and young people.
For example, think about how the whole family deals with stress and what can be done to maybe make it a calmer environment at home. Invite an open and honest conversation about each other’s experiences of family life.
Schools can look into resourcing children and young people with mindfulness techniques and spaces for some calming down time. I know that some schools teach meditation and it really helps children and young people to learn these skills for life.
Sharing life skills and modelling resilience
We as adults are role models in how our children learn to deal with stress and any issues in life. So the more we work on our own resilience and coping strategies, the healthier also for our children and the whole family.
Resilience also means learning how to trust yourself and being with the unknown, as life is always unpredictable. Maybe our children need the encouragement again to learn who they are and what resources and strengths they already have. This can be supported and developed from a very young age, giving children the confidence to find their own solutions to problems.
Encouraging them to give their own ideas without the fear of being judged or not taken seriously. Each child has their own unique experience of life and therefore their individual views should always be sought.
Children can learn from a very young age how to resource themselves when times feel tough. Deep breathing and some meditation techniques are very child friendly and can be practised whenever they feel anxious or stressed.
Engaging their senses can have a calming effect, for example, certain smells in their bedroom or textures to feel on their skin. Walking barefoot can support children in feeling more grounded and strengthening their muscles to take their own steps. It’s also about being an example as an adult for a healthy lifestyle, for example getting enough sleep, good food choices, drinking water etc. All of this promotes mental and physical health and supports healthy life choices that can become habits for life.
Developing under pressure
There has been a lot of pressure on us all to get through daily life and not to lose hope and focus. But for our children and young people, it’s even more important to develop this in the midst of this life-changing world situation.
Let’s not focus too much on achieving and success coming out of this pandemic. Let’s support our children and young people to learn about life skills that are beyond school and academic achievements. So that they know their self worth is always there, not dependent on their grades or how well they do in school.
They are all born with unique talents and strengths and we should focus on supporting them in finding out what they are. They have a unique place to fill in this world and I believe our task as adults is to support them in filling their place to the fullest.
Ask yourself: What support would I have wanted and needed as a child and young person? What adult would I have wished for back then? And then go and be that adult for the children and young people in your life. This will give the next generation the support that they need to grow up into strong, resilient and self-determined adults. It will get them through any tough times to know their inner resources and to have adults that believe in them. And if we do one thing that can change this world, it’s to give back to the next generations.
As parents, the best thing you can do is to look after your own self-care and mental health so that you can support your children too. And if issues become too difficult, it’s about reaching out for support that might be necessary to bring things back into balance.
Finding help and support
I always offer a first free conversation for anyone who struggles and wants to find out about further support options. My approach is non-judgemental, flexible and includes the wider perspective so that changes are long lasting.
Why not have a first call with me and find out more about how I work and whether we fit together. I work with children and young people as well as with the parents as it’s important to include everyone’s perspective on any issues going on. If you are interested, just reach out.