Before I had my twins I would never have thought about my mental health. I didn’t think I needed to, but that is the thing about your mental health it can change. Who knows why this concept seemed so alien to me. I mean I am not surprised when I am physically well and then get a cold…. However, with my mental health, despite having been through a traumatic experience it never dawned on me that this could have ramifications for my mental health. Well not until my family started telling me i needed to see a doctor. I want my children to grow up with a more proactive approach to managing mental health and so here are some of the activities we do as a family and some mental health awareness week ideas that we will be trying
Eat together as a family
We are lucky as my husband is home in time for us to eat as a family everyday, but still activities get in the way. We always all sit down together at the weekend though at least. Family meals are a time to reconnect as a group and share our experiences. They are also a time for abject chaos in our house so not always very relaxing, but still…
Research suggests that eating with others helps mental health as it creates a time to talk, develops feelings of contentment and can help children (and adults) to feel secure. There are also benefits for social development including listening skills – totally a work in progress in our house!
Why not head to the park as a family and have fun. This might be joining in with a junior park run, playing football or just playing chase. I definitely find that getting all of us outside and running about lifts the spirits. In fact if the kids start squabbling that has always been my first thought- lets get out!
Showing our kids mummy and daddy being active must be a positive message for them and their future. Working out and especially running has been great for my mental health so I want to pass on the connection between feeling good and being active to my children.
How about setting you and your kids a kindness challenge for mental health awareness week? So ask each person in the family to consciously do something kind. This could be playing with a child who doesn’t have someone to play with at lunchtime, helping mummy or daddy without being asked or helping a sibling with a task they are finding difficult. The point of the exercise is for them to be mindful of their actions and be thinking about being positive.
Get more sleep
According to the Place2Be charity children who get less sleep are more likely to worry so during Mental Health Awareness week why not concentrate on pre bedtime relaxation and talk to the children about how important sleep is. Also go to bed earlier yourself after all we aren’t just trying to look after the children. This is one thing I need to do more often as I get tired, but then still watch tv before bed. I need to take my own advice!!
We use meditation and relaxation tracks a lot in our house. I discovered the benefit of these when trying to get pregnant and I love them when you are feeling tired, but also worried. A meditation session can totally work wonders and enable that brain to relax and sleep to come. After seeing the benefits myself I started using meditation with the children too. Each evening as they settle down to sleep they listen to The Floppy Sleep Game by Patti Teel (this woman needs a medal as this is the only way my eldest could settle for sleep when he was younger) She has saved my sanity many times when kids have awoken in the night I can tell you.
We also use meditation to support my eldest with hormonal mood swings. When he gets cross he is encouraged to take time out and go to his room with an ipod and a children’s meditation track. It works a treat.
The kids also enjoy me leading relaxation sessions with them. I have used books to learn activities that we can do together.
Time to talk
Create time to talk. I always ask the kids about their day, but it has occurred to me that I don’t actively encourage them to talk about the things that didn’t go so well that day. So this mental health awareness week I am going to start doing that. I want them to know we can also talk about the things that are perhaps a concern and not just our successes. In the UK we have the tendency to cover up not feeling ok. If you are British you will know that the only acceptable answer to ‘How are you?’ is ‘Fine thanks’. At least within the family I think we need to change this. If I ask the kids how their day went I need them to know that it is ok to say ‘it was awful and this is why’
One thing I need to work on is making sure that all four of the kids get their individual time to talk to me. It is much harder to raise a concern when 4 people are fighting for airspace. I have this time carved out for the boys at the moment, but it is harder to do it with the twins. They just do everything together… So this week I am going to work this out. They need their own mummy time too.
Make a rainbow dinner
Talking about mental health can be a great opportunity to talk about taking care of yourself generally. We talk about how we need to eat the rainbow to keep ourselves feeling bright and sunny. Believe me this is a struggle as one of my son’s is so fussy and hates most vegetables, but I try… This week we are going to do another vegetable taste test and then see how many colours of the rainbow we can get on our plate for dinner. I won’t lie this isn’t a miracle and mister fussy pants probably won’t try most of it, but it is worth a try.
What are you doing for mental health awareness week this year?