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Children's Mental Health Week: How Parents Can Teach Kindness To Kids To Help Maintain Good Mental Health

How do you encourage kindness at home?

07/02/2017 16:21

Whatever age your child is, it is never too early or too late to start thinking about their mental health

The NSPCC revealed there was a “sharp rise” in children being counselled for anxiety last year, so helping kids develop the skills to cope with life’s challenges as they grow up couldn’t be more important.

Parents have a hugely important role to play in terms of helping children to develop resilience,” said Jonathon Wood, head of service at children’s mental health charity Place2Be

As parents, we are constant role models. It’s important to think about our own behaviour and how we deal with emotions, as this will influence how they cope themselves.”

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For Children’s Mental Health Week 2017, Place2Be chose the theme “spread a little kindness”.

“We’ve chosen this as we all know someone who has gone through a tough time and it can be hard to know what to do to help, especially where children are involved,” Catherine Roche, chief executive of Place2Be told HuffPost UK.

“Small acts of kindness can make all the difference. We can all have a role to play in helping children learn the value of kindness.”

Wood said parents can create daily habits with their children to instil kindness from a young age.

“If we can do this when children are young and help them feel it is good to talk about their feelings, then this will stay with them throughout their life,” he said.

Introducing kindness as a daily habit with your children can be achieved in many ways: 

1. Point out examples of kindness.

“Pointing out everyday examples of kindness – whether it’s in our own homes, in a bedtime story, or a stranger we see on the street – helps children notice and understand what it means to be kind,” explained Wood.

This doesn’t necessarily mean making children aware of big gestures or expensive gifts, Wood added, but could be as simple as holding a door open or helping someone carry a bag.

2. Praise children for kind acts.

When we asked 10- and 11-year-olds what they think is a kind thing to do for other children in their class, they had lots of ideas,” explained Wood.

“These included asking someone how they are, making sure they have someone to play with them, trying to cheer them up, or if they’re still upset, helping them find an adult to talk to.

Parents should make sure they comment when their child shows kindness to others and praise them, no matter how big or small.” 

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3. Involve children in kind acts.

Wood explained parents can involve children in acts at home if they’re helping someone out, so that being kind to others becomes a normal part of family life. 

4. Make sure your child knows you love them.

Kindness will be encouraged in environments that are positive for children.

“Make sure your child knows you love them and are proud of them,” said Jo Hardy, parents services manager at YoungMinds, said. “Even when things are busy or stressful, a word or a hug can reassure them.

“Be honest about your feelings.You don’t have to be perfect. We all get things wrong and shout or say unkind things from time to time.”

5. Be kind to yourself.

If your child is experiencing mental health problems, parents should not blame themselves, said Hardy.

“If things are getting you down, it’s important to recognise this,” she said. “Talk to someone you trust and see what they think.

“Go to your GP if things are really getting on top of you.” 

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6. Create an atmosphere where kids can talk openly.

Wood explained that encouraging kindness in kids will flourish if parents create an atmosphere where children have the ability to talk openly.

To do this, parents should: 1) Have regular one-on-one time with their child where they actively listen to their child and 2) Enjoy quiet activities with their child.

It can be really difficult spend this time together when we are balancing lots of different demands on our time, but it’s really beneficial for children to know they can count on their parents to hold some time just for them,” Wood said. 

Hardy added: “Even young children can understand about feelings and behaviour if you give them a chance to talk about it.

“With older children, they might not want to talk at first. Let them know you are there if they need you.” 

For more information on supporting your child’s mental health, visit Place2Be or YoungMinds

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