The concern for our children’s mental health and happiness has intensified recently. The media deliver daily reports on a constant dialogue between experts highlighting the damaging impact of lockdown on young people who are missing out on life as we knew it pre Covid-19. This is not wholly confined to their education but everything that going to pre-school, school, college or university offers – for instance, structure and a support system beyond home but arguably most importantly – face-to-face contact with peers.
Worrying about your children feeling lonely and distressed can have a negative impact on your own wellbeing. It’s vital therefore that you look after yourself too. There’s a reason during the safety talk on an aeroplane that in the event of an emergency you’re instructed to put on your own oxygen mask first i.e. before helping others. With your kids at home, you’ve probably been busy juggling their needs – maybe to the point where you’ve neglected your own. But here’s the thing - when you feel content because you’ve allowed a little time to do something for yourself (e.g. eaten a healthy meal, exercised, chatted to your friends, engage in your hobbies and interests) you’ll be able to think, act and interact in a positive way and those that you care for will benefit so much more from the additional resources you have access to. There’s a wonderful ripple effect because children aren’t just sponges – they’re mirrors.
In Solution Focussed Hypnotherapy we believe ‘Problem talk creates problems. Solution talk creates solutions’ (Steve de Shazer). So what can we do to improve the resilience of our young people? What tools can we give them to cope better, both now and in the future?
Teach them how their brain works (in an age-appropriate way). When in crisis the Primitive Mind, often referred to as the ‘chimp’, will want to take over. To ensure their short term self-survival they’ll be sent into freeze, flight or fight, most likely accompanied by feelings of anxiety, depression and anger. Acknowledge and validate any fears and frustrations to reassure their inner chimp that you hear them and they’re safe. Take comfort in the fact you’re not alone, this situation is affecting parents and children nationwide (though I appreciate our personal situations and challenges vary). Harness the power of their imaginations to paint a picture of the difference it would make if they were feeling braver. Support creative opportunities for them to connect with their friends within the guidelines. Look for ways to release their happy hormones – e.g. endorphins (exercise and laughter), dopamine (listening to music, sleep, sunlight), oxytocin (hugs and eye contact) and serotonin (nutrition and gratitude) so that they can bypass the chimp to spend more time in their Intellectual Mind where they have access to their skills and strengths. And encourage them to notice their achievements, no matter how small, so that they can create and then reinforce a beneficial mind map for their thoughts, feelings and behaviour to follow.
With best wishes to you and yours,
BA (Hons), DipSFH. Reg AfSFH, CNHC, NCP
If you and / or your children would like some help, please get in touch for a free introductory phone call.