Dear Delany community,
Mental health is a way of describing social and emotional wellbeing. Your child needs good mental health to develop in a healthy way, build strong relationships, adapt to change and deal with life’s challenges.
Pre-teens and teenagers who have good mental health often:
- feel happier and more positive about themselves and enjoy life
- have healthier relationships with family and friends
- do physical activity and eat a healthy diet
- get involved in activities
- have a sense of achievement
- can relax and get a good night’s sleep
- feel like they belong to their communities.
Your love and support and a strong relationship with you can have a direct and positive impact on your child’s mental health. It can even reduce the chances of your child experiencing mental health problems.
Here are some ideas to promote your child’s mental health and wellbeing:
- Show love, affection and care for your child.
- Show that you’re interested in what’s happening in your child’s life. Praise his/her efforts as well as his/her good points and achievements and value their ideas.
- Enjoy spending time together one on one with your child, and also as a family.
- Encourage your child to talk about feelings with you. It’s important for your child to feel they din't have to go through things on their own and that you can work together to find solutions to a problem.
- Deal with problems as they arise, rather than letting them build up.
- Talk to trusted family members, friends, other parents or teachers if you have any concerns. If you feel you need more help, speak to your GP or another health professional.
Physical health is a big part of mental health. To help your child stay emotionally and physically healthy, encourage your child to do the following:
- Keep active. Physical fitness will help your child stay healthy, have more energy, feel confident, manage stress and sleep well.
- Develop and maintain healthy eating habits.
- Get lots of regular sleep. Quality sleep will help your child to manage a busy life, stress and responsibilities.
It’s normal for children and teenagers to sometimes have low moods, poor motivation and trouble sleeping. These things aren’t always the signs of a mental health problem. If you notice any of the following signs and the signs go on for more than a few weeks, it’s important to talk with your child. The next step is to get professional help.
- seeming down, feeling things are hopeless, or lacking motivation
- having trouble coping with everyday activities
- showing sudden changes in behaviour, often for no obvious reason
- having trouble eating or sleeping
- dropping in school performance, or suddenly refusing to go to school, avoiding friends or social contact
- saying they have physical pain – for example, headache, stomach ache or backache
- being aggressive or antisocial – for example, missing school, getting into trouble with the police, fighting or stealing
- being very anxious about weight or physical appearance, losing weight or failing to gain weight as they grow.
If you’re concerned about your child’s mental health, start by talking to your child. This might feel uncomfortable – you might even be waiting for the problem to go away, but talking to your child about how they're feeling shows them they are not alone and that you care. Also, your child might need your help to get professional support.
Here are some ideas to encourage your child to talk to you about how they're feeling:
- Say that even adults have problems they can’t sort out on their own. Point out that it’s easier to get help when you have someone else’s support.
- Tell your child that it’s not unusual for young people to feel worried, stressed or sad. Also tell her/him that opening up about personal thoughts and feelings can be scary.
- Tell your child that talking about a problem can often help put things into perspective and make feelings clearer. Someone with more or different experience – like an adult – might be able to suggest options your child hasn’t thought of.
- Suggest some other people your child could talk to if they don't want to talk to you – for example, aunts or uncles, close family friends, a trusted sports coach or religious leader, or your GP.
- Let your child know that talking with a GP or other health professional is confidential. They can’t tell anyone else, unless they’re worried about your child’s safety or someone else’s safety.
- Emphasise that your child isn’t alone. You’ll be there whenever she’s/he’s ready to talk.
If you raise your concerns with your child, he/she might refuse any help or say there’s nothing wrong. Many young people won’t seek help themselves. So you might need to say that you’re worried about him/her and you’ll be trying to get professional advice. It’s a good idea to encourage your child to come with you. If he/she won’t, you might need to go on your own.