Good mental wellbeing helps children and teens develop confidence and resilience to cope with life's challenges. Here we share 15 wellbeing strategies for children and teenagers, that parents can also adopt themselves.
10 minute read
- Why it is important to look after our Mental Wellbeing
- Keep communication open with your child and be mindful of what they are listening to
- Encourage them to write out thoughts and feelings in a journal or worry box
- Create a self sooth box and practice gratitude together
- Use breathing techniques and Mindfulness to stay grounded
- Get creative or revisit a hobby they used to enjoy
- Prioritise good eating habits, exercise and sleep
Why Is It Important To Look After Our Mental Wellbeing?
At any age, positive wellbeing enables us to:
- Have more confidence and a healthy belief in ourselves
- Strengthen our self-esteem
- Have positive and more fulfilling relationships with others
- Cope with anxiety and other challenges
- Adapt to change in a constructive way
This doesn’t mean we will only ever be happy, as life will always give us challenges, but it enables us to cope with challenges in a practical and productive way.
We can implement these strategies right now to help both us and our children with our wellbeing, and enable us all to cope better.
1. It’s Good to Talk
Let your children know you are there for them when they want to talk.
It may be a big decision for them to open up about their worries and anxieties so ensure you give them the time and attention that they deserve. If you are in the middle of something and you can’t stop what you are doing there and then, let your child know a time later that day, when you are able to give them your full attention.
Sometimes, older children just want to offload, and they are not necessarily looking for you to fix something for them. Check in with them before you start offering solutions, because they will feel more empowered if they are able to come up with the solutions that work best for them. In this instance, your role as their parent or caregiver is just to support them.
2. Encourage Journalling
Older children and teenagers may prefer to have a journal they can write in. Maybe they can set aside some time when they get home from school to write their thoughts down. This should remain private to them, unless they choose to discuss it with you.
Journalling is not the same as a diary, it is more a brain dump of all our thoughts and feelings in that moment. Getting these out of our heads and on to paper can be a great way of identifying what is worrying us.
Journalling also helps us to recognise triggers and learn ways to better control our thoughts and feelings. Encourage your child to reflect on what they would say to a friend who is struggling with something similar, as this provides the opportunity to practice more positive self-talk.
Younger children may prefer to draw their feelings in their journal. Encourage them to express themselves however they feel on that day.
3. Create a Worry Box
If anxious thoughts continue to overwhelm your child, they may wish to create a worry box. When your child is feeling calm, you can either work on a project together or they can do it themselves.
Decorate an empty tissue box. Get your child to write about or draw their worries and "post" them into the box whenever they are feeling anxious or worried.
Then you can sort through the box together during the day or week and tear up any worries that are no longer there. Over time, they will begin to see that the worry may not be quite as big as they originally thought.
Other children like to fill a balloon with water, write their worry on it and throw it up in the air. The balloon bursts on impact with the ground and this can provide a great sense of satisfaction for some children.
4. Let Them Know This Feeling Will Pass
We all go through life experiencing a wide range of emotions. These emotions, such as happiness or sadness come and go. Some emotions may feel stronger than others, and feel that they are present, or even dominate our lives, for longer.
Remind your child that our feelings can constantly change, and this too will pass.
What can you do together to break their challenge into manageable chunks?
5. Be Aware Of What You Are Listening To
We all know how listening to the news can contribute to us feeling upsetting emotions, with all the doom and gloom that is reported, and even very young children can still pick up on the upsetting nature of the news.
Even if you or your child are not actively listening to the news, our minds are still being fed these stories. Remind yourselves that these negative news stories are not a true reflection of what is happening in the world today. There are a lot of positive stories too, but they don’t feature in what is so often reported.
It is also worth listening to the words of the music you and your loved ones listen too. Song lyrics are often about heartache and negative emotions, so if that is what we are listening to, try switching to a more uplifting playlist instead.
6. Create a Self-Soothing Box
Your child might enjoy a self-soothe box, which they can fill with things that help them when they feel anxious or overwhelmed. This self soothe box may contain things like their favourite books, as well as photos of loved ones and happy places.
Perhaps they can include a stress ball or a fidget toy for when they have an anxious moment. Encourage them to collect happy mementos from family holidays or days out. This may be a post card or a stone from the beach.
Depending on their age, they may want to include anxiety reducing aromatherapy oils and positive or uplifting quotes that cheer them up and empower them.
When they are feeling calm and content, encourage them to write a letter to themselves, listing all the things they are good at or have overcome. You may want to write a letter to your child too, to keep in their self soothe box, telling them how proud you are of them.
7. Practice Gratitude Together
Each night before your child goes to sleep, discuss the three best things that happened that day for both of you, and be grateful.
There is always something to be grateful for, even if it is as simple as enjoying their lunch, feeling the warmth of the sun on their face, feeling safe and snug in their bed or having a cuddle.
This reminds us of the good things that have happened that day and helps promote healthy sleep.
8. Breathing techniques
When we feel anxious or stressed, our breathing becomes shallow and our heartrate quickens. We can reverse this feeling by slowing down our breathing.
- Encourage your child to place a hand on their tummy, then take a big, long, slow breath in through their nose, and notice their hand rise as their lungs expands with air.
- Encourage them to hold their breath for a second, then have them breathe out slowly as if they are blowing out a candle
- Repeat for 5 breaths or longer
I also demonstrate 4-7-8 breathing in this video. This encourages us to breath out for longer which signals to our bodies that we are in a safe place and enables our heart rate to calm down.
9. Meditation and Mindfulness
Meditation and mindfulness can be practiced at any age and gives us the opportunity to slow down and check in with how we are really feeling. Meditation involves paying attention and grounding ourselves to what is going on in the current moment.
Meditation and mindfulness reconnects us back to our bodies and our senses. We do this by focusing on our breath, and paying attention to the sights, sounds, smells, touch and tastes of the present moment.
Mindfulness is an awareness of our thoughts and feelings as they happen moment to moment, without judging them. When we encourage children to be mindful, it can help them develop skills to deal with the stress of school, studying and life in general
10. Spend Time Together in Nature
Nature can be a great boost for our mental wellbeing and helps us feel grounded. Spending time together in parks, forests or near water has lots of positive benefits.
Listening to the birds or the wind in the trees has a very calming effect on us and helps us focus on the present moment instead of worrying about something in the future that has not yet happened. It is also a great opportunity to encourage your child to open up about their feelings.
If you have young children, then maybe you have an old phone or a camera, and you can encourage them to take photos. This helps them to look at nature as something to be appreciated, instead of taken for granted.
You can also choose to spend time gardening or growing your own food together, this is a great way of encouraging them to eat more healthily too. Maybe you can both offer to walk someone’s dog, or volunteer to pick up rubbish at your local park. Helping others is a great way of boosting self esteem.
11. Get Creative or Learn Something New
What can your child do to be creative right now? Do they like, painting, colouring or drawing?
Creativity gives us an avenue to express ourselves, helps boost confidence and releases stress and tension from our bodies.
When we are learning something new, something that excites us, we can have a feeling of pride. As we learn, we can boost our sense of achievement and belief in ourselves.
It can be something simple like learning how to bake a new cake or take better photos, or more challenging such as learning a new hobby or language.
12. Revisiting a Hobby
What hobbies did your child used to enjoy when they were younger. Was it playing an instrument or dancing? Maybe they enjoyed football or singing?
Often, the hobbies we enjoyed when we were younger fall by the wayside when we are busy with school work and general life, but they can be some of the things we are most passionate about.
Revisiting a hobby is a great opportunity to tune into our passions and remind us how we felt before the stress of life took over.
13. Nutrition Can Also Impact On Our Wellbeing
Evidence supports that as well as affecting our physical health, what we eat can also impact our mental wellbeing. Improving your families diet may help us to have more energy, think more clearly and improve our mood.
Eating smaller regular meals stabilises our blood sugar and avoids mood swings and tiredness. Try and encourage your child to avoid too many sweets and biscuits as sugary food causes our blood sugar to rise and crash dramatically.
Increasing fruit and veg will help as they contain essential vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants, and fibre. Raw veg such as carrots make for great snacks.
You can use frozen or tinned fruit and veg to cook with, as well as fresh.
Junk food can be high in salt, saturated fat and sugar, and low in fibre. If children regularly eat these foods, it can increase their long term risk of obesity and other health conditions.
It is also important to stay hydrated as this increases our concentration. Avoid sugary and caffeinated drinks, such as coffee or energy drinks, and encourage water and herbal teas instead.
Try to focus on exercise being fun, as children are more likely to engage. Young children have a lot of energy and exercise can include running around at the park, playing catch or kicking a ball. Offer them lots of praise to encourage them to keep moving. Encourage young children to get moving with a game of Simon Says, where they have to copy your moves and then make up their own.
If you don’t have the outdoor space, then play some favourite tunes and get dancing together indoors.
If you are struggling to find the time to exercise with your children, try leaving the car at home and encourage them to walk to school or the shops with you. This is also a great time to encourage conversations and find out what is really happening in your child’s world.
Sleep is an essential process that helps our bodies and minds to repair, restore and function effectively. Sleep is vital for maintaining good wellbeing.
It is recommended to have a consistent sleep schedule and routine at any age, and avoid electronics 1 hour prior to bed time.
Take a young child to bed as soon as they are starting to show signs of sleepiness, as this helps them learn how to fall asleep on their own. If toddlers wake up in the night, take them back to their own bed immediately so they can practice falling to sleep alone again.
We are often advised we should be aiming for 7 - 8 hours of sleep each night, but for teenagers, the recommended amount of sleep could be as high as 10 hours per night. The teenage years are a highly developmental period and the brain and body go through major changes during the transition to adulthood that affect emotions and personality.
Unfortunately, research indicates that many teens get far less sleep than they need and this impacts on their studies and wellbeing. Teenagers often have trouble falling asleep at a sensible bedtime because their brains naturally work on later schedules. Furthermore, blue light from their electronic devices also delays the release of melatonin, making it even harder for them to sleep.
Ensure their room is dark, cool and quiet, and try and avoid any electronic devices. If they are still struggling, encourage them to try a relaxing bedtime routine, like taking a warm bath or shower, reading, listening to music, or meditating before going to sleep.
Other Resources You May Be Interested In:
If anxiety is something you or your loved ones struggle with regularly, then please get in touch to discuss how I can help you overcome the underlying cause of your anxiety. You can book a FREE 45 minute discovery call here