The NHS says there is “No health without Mental Health.” Mental health is just as important as physical health, but can feel harder to work on. It feels fluffier and harder to get your arms around it.
My wife and I have been pinning it down at home with our young kids, simply through conversations. We've found that having a quick chat with them on a daily basis and on a variety of topics seems to work wonders.
Read on for some handy tips on what works for us and what you can use immediately with your kids at home too!
(We've also found the way you phrase it matters. Which is why we wrote hundreds of questions and prompts that work for other parents to try out - free to download all in the handy KidCoachApp).
Parenting website The Bump says “Kids need to be allowed to feel sad, frustrated, hurt—and supported to work through those feelings in appropriate ways.” By showing our kids that feelings are natural and not something to hide, we improve their confidence.
Little kiddos have a ton of emotions floating around their heads. It's often hard for kids to process them. Because of this, our kids can be emotional and upset not knowing why.
Simply labelling those emotions helps them start organising their thoughts and lets them know that they are all OK to have. For instance this Carizon article encourages us to teach kids the “language of feelings.”
So start by asking “Can you name 10 different emotions?” Labelling brings it under control!
Want to improve your kid's confidence and mood? Make it clear that emotions are welcome here.
I caught up recently with Dr Kate Cross, an Educational and Child Psychologist and valued member of the KidCoach Advisory Board. Her biggest point was to validate the feelings of our children and make them know that they are all OK to have. She said: “It's OK to feel angry. It's OK to feel sad. It is OK to feel your feelings! Your reaction afterwards may not be OK, if you hit someone for example, but we are all allowed to have ‘negative’ feelings from time to time”.
One popular question from the KidCoachApp is “Is it OK to cry?” It’s a simple conversation designed to demonstrate that – yes! – it is OK to cry, or to be angry, or jealous etc. This link opens up the full card for you to see all the prompts and guidance notes we have written to help you have this chat.
Questions like this will help you clearly demonstrate that there are no negative emotions and all are OK to have.
The VeryWellFamily says “Inconsistency can lead to kids lashing out and acting out in self-sabotaging ways.”
We don’t want that!
We want to keep showing up for our kids, making them feel safe and secure. Spending just five minutes a day to check in and have a quick chat with our kiddos creates a healthy bond between us. No matter what challenges they are going through they will know that they can come to us and we are there for them.
It's one reason why I created the KidCoachApp, taking the pressure out of deciding what to talk about, and enjoying our conversations with kids instead. Above is an example of a conversation card we created for busy parents to spend time having daily conversations with their kids.
Talking to parenting coach Cathy about this approach she was hugely supportive: "When the lines of dialogue are open and being used, with children regularly talking to parents about all sorts of things, children are more likely to come to you with anything that is troubling them."
I like the notion of being on the same level as the kids. If we can be their “peer” not their “parent” then we are really empowering them, building bags of confidence and resilience along the way.
So maybe you want to ask your kids challenging “grown-up” questions and see what they have to say? Let them know their thoughts and voices are valued. Their opinion matters.
(If this feels way different to the way you were brought up, and you feel you might need to unlearn a few things before trying this yourself, then you might find this article on “Reparenting” helpful.)
Otherwise you can crack on today. Ask them to solve a big problem like the question about traffic on the roads above and see what they say. Who knows, your kids may come up with a whizzbang idea that will completely blow your socks off!
By the way, lots more questions like this in this MyBaba article on having more meaningful conversations with children.
Mindfulness is pretty hot right at the moment. I love that kids are getting introduced to this nowadays. It teaches kids emotional resilience and helps them find the strength to deal with their emotions head-on and manage themselves.
If you are new to mindfulness here is a handy guide by Altamed on how to implement mindfulness daily, no matter what emotions you or your children are facing. I quite like this bit:
S: Stop. Whatever you’re doing, take a time-out.
T: Take a breath. As you breathe, tune everything out but the feeling of pulling air into your body.
O: Observe. Notice what is happening, and your thoughts and feelings, too.
P: Proceed. Whatever you do next, think about what you’ve experienced at this moment.
A core component of mindfulness is Breathing. Just talking to our kids about the simple power of taking 10 long, slow and deep breaths equips them with a valuable self-management tool for life.
By the way - Mindfulness can also be a family activity. Spread the peaceful vibes and meditate together. We understand being a parent is stressful sometimes, I feel you. Mindfulness can help you also take a breather now and then!
We parents are on the front lines with our children and can best understand what's going on in their heads. Oftentimes this can happen with some simple and well- chosen questions.
Being a child is hard at the best of times and the Covid period they have all gone through has made it even harder. So I hope the five simple tips we shared with the conversation prompts help you and your children in the months to come.
To have all the prompts in the palm of your hand, do consider downloading the KidCoachApp from the Apple or Google store. You can get started for free and join thousands of other parents who are having more meaningful conversations with their children.
Try the KidCoachApp now!