We shouldn’t just look after our mental wellbeing when we’re struggling. It should be something we do all the time. That’s why it’s an important habit to teach children and young people.  

Here you can learn more about mental wellbeing, as well as tips and advice you can teach your children so they can become healthier and happier.  On top of this, you can also see the services we offer in your area.

Some support you may be able to ask to access yourself. This is called self-referral. Other times, a GP, teacher, or social worker will need to request this support for you. 

What is mental wellbeing? 

Mental wellbeing is about how you’re feeling right now, and how well you can cope with life’s stresses and challenges.  

Good mental wellbeing is essential to living a happy and healthy life. It helps us feel better about ourselves, sleep better, do the things we want to do and create positive relationships.  

Not only does good mental wellbeing make us feel good in the moment, but it also makes us more resilient and ready to face life’s difficulties. 

Here are just a few parts of our mental wellbeing you can teach your children about: 

Tips for improving wellbeing 

Confidence and self-esteem

Being confident is all about believing in our skills, qualities, and capabilities, and accepting ourselves for who we are. 

We know that sometimes a child's confidence may take a knock. For example, exam stress, the pressure to fit in, or being bullied or cyberbullied can all take a toll on a child’s self-esteem.   

The good news is that there are small steps your child can take to boost their confidence — and you can support them. For instance, you could: 

  • Encourage them to look after themselves – By looking after their health on the outside, they might feel better on the inside. So, encourage them to sleep well, eat a balanced diet, stay active and spend time with friends and family.  
  • Challenge any unkind thoughts – If a child criticises themselves, challenge it and let them know how you, and others, see them. Remind them of their positive qualities.  
  • Encourage them to voice their ideas and opinions – By helping them to be more assertive, they may learn to set boundaries and value their own opinions. 
  • Encourage them to try new challenges and discover new talents – Finding something they’re good at or overcoming a challenge, might boost your child’s feelings of self-worth. For instance, you could encourage them to join a club, group, or activity. Building confidence takes time though, so start small. 
  • Celebrate their efforts rather than perfection – Sometimes children can miss out on trying new things because they’re worried about failing or letting people down. Remind your child that it’s okay to make mistakes. It’s all part of life and it’s how we learn.  Building confidence can take time and practice and it might feel a big step for them to make any changes. So let them go at their own pace and don’t put too much pressure on them. Remember that sometimes even the smallest changes can make a big difference. 

Practicing gratefulness

Gratitude is all about recognising all the positive things in your life and expressing thanks or appreciation for them. It’s not about ignoring the negative things in life or sweeping them under the carpet. It’s simply about taking time to be thankful for the positives too.  

Research has shown that practicing gratitude can make us feel happier and more hopeful. So, it’s a good skill to teach our kids early on in life.  

Young happy boy in garden

For instance, you could encourage your child to keep a gratitude diary where they list things that they’re grateful for. This could range from simple joys of having their favourite meal or going for a calm nature walk, or the feeling of thanks that comes from recovering from an illness.  

On days when they’re feelings low or anxious, they can then read through their notes and remind themselves of happier times.

Practicing mindfulness

Mindfulness means noticing what’s happening in the present moment, in an accepting and non-judgemental way. When you’re being mindful, you might focus on your mind, body, or surroundings. 

For instance, you and your family could try: 

  • Mindful eating – This involves slowing down and simply paying attention to the sight, taste, and textures of what you’re eating. This allows us to better appreciate every meal, and every mouthful. Of course, life can be hectic and filled with distractions, so this isn't an everyday task but something to try from time to time.  
  • Body scanning – This is where you focus your attention slowly through different parts of your body. Starting from your head you might focus on clinching and relaxing each body part down to the end of your toes.  
  • Mindful meditation – This involves sitting quietly, reflecting on your thoughts, and breathing. If you’re unsure where to start, why not show your child a meditation app, such as Headspace. Of course, with any technology platform it’s wise to look yourself to see if it’s suitable.  

Practising mindfulness can be a great tool when looking after our mental wellbeing. That’s because being aware of our thoughts and feelings, can help us feel more in control and less overwhelmed.  

Just like any skill, mindfulness takes a bit of practice. They might not see the benefits right away – and that’s okay. It’s all about seeing what works for them.  

Practicing kindness

Have you ever noticed that when you do a random act of kindness, it often makes you feel good inside? Research has shown that helping others make us feel good too. So why not give it a go with your family? 

For instance, you could encourage your child to: 

  • write a letter to someone 

  • paint a picture for someone 

  • cook a meal or bake some goodies for someone 

  • help someone with a household chore. 

If you want to better your life as well as the lives of others, your family could even try volunteering, donating , or fundraising for a cause that’s close to your heart. 

If you’d like to do your bit for Barnardo’s, you could organise a bake sale, volunteer at a local shop or take part in Big Toddle, for example. In doing so, you’ll make a meaningful difference to vulnerable children and young people across the UK. 

Remember that kindness doesn’t just mean being kind to others though. It’s also just as important to teach your children the importance of self-kindness. 

Mistakes and slip-ups are bound to happen in life but, often, it's not the end of the world. Supporting your children that they can grow and learn from these mistakes is an important lesson and the first step towards self-compassion.  

Developing resilience

Resilience is all about your ability to deal with challenging life events and situations, and how you can recover from these. For example, how you cope with the death of a loved one, how you deal with moving schools or home, or how you manage when a stressful exam is just around the corner. 

Determined boy

Building resilience doesn’t mean that you don’t experience difficult emotions, such as anger, sadness, or disappointment. It simply means that you’re strong enough to keep going when you face obstacles or challenges.  

Building resilience is something that takes time and patience. You can help your child increase their emotional resilience by:  

  • helping them find ways to deal with negative thoughts or feelings 

  • supporting them to find stress-busting techniques 

  • encouraging them to challenge their inner critic and not to be so hard on themselves  

  • reminding them that failure and mistakes are just a part of life - it’s how we learn and grow  

  • encourage them to set challenges or goals for themselves, such as learning a new language 

  • empowering your child to make age-appropriate decisions about the things that affect them.

Coping with stress 

Stress is how we react when we feel threated, under pressure or out of control.   

A bit of stress is normal. Sometimes it can even be helpful or motivate us. But if stress is making your child feel overwhelmed, there are things you can try that may help.  For instance, you could encourage them to:  

  • Be active – Exercise won’t eliminate their stress, but it may make it feel less intense and help them to clear their thoughts.  

  • Take control but accept the things they can’t change – Focus on the things they can control and make changes. Then encourage them to let go of the things that aren’t in their power to fix or change. This will help them to feel empowered and less stressed.   

  • Plan – Keeping a to-do list, managing their time well and preparing for stressful events may help them feel less overwhelmed.  

  • Take time to relax – Encourage them to schedule some ‘me’ time to do things that help them unwind. This might involve going for a bath, reading, or baking.   

  • Talk to others – Chatting to a friend, family member, or a teacher, may help them see things in a new light.   

  • Try calming breathing exercises – Encourage your child to make their exhale longer than their inhale and keep going until they find a rhythm that’s right for them and they feel calmer. 

Using social media purposefully 

For most young people today, being online is a part of day-to-day life. It’s how they learn, spend their ‘me’ time, have fun and keep in touch with friends and family.  

But it can have a negative impact too. Cyberbullying or digital fallouts might happen, they might feel pressure to look a certain way or ‘fit in,’ or maybe they’ve stumbled across distressing content.  

Young girl using laptop

Whether they’re gaming, chatting, posting, or streaming, the internet should improve and simplify our lives, not be a cause of distraction, worry or upset. 

So we should help children learn how to navigate and enjoy the internet safely and talk to them about looking after their digital wellbeing

Although it can be hard, if your child is worried or getting upset about being online, it might also be worth encouraging them to cut down on their screentime. For instance, you could encourage them to: 

  • Identify the signs they’ve been online for too long – From headaches and feeling irritable to withdrawing from friends and family, recognising the signs that they’ve been online too long can help them see its impact.   

  • Encourage them to use the internet in a purposeful way – When it comes to using the internet, it’s all about quality not quantity. Instead of mindlessly scrolling for hours on end, encourage your child to use the internet in a purposeful way 

  • Try offline activities together – Whether they fancy playing football or going to the museum, creating meaningful experiences with your child will help them strike a balance between offline and online life.  

Challenging negative thoughts 

Negative thoughts often pop into our heads and, if we start believing them, it can become a problem. 

That's why it's important to remind your child that just because we have a thought doesn’t mean it’s true. Very often, it’s not based on any facts.  

The good news is that there are strategies you can use to help stop negative thoughts in their tracks. 

The first step is to help your child identify the negative thoughts they’re having. For instance, next time they have a negative thought you could encourage them to jot it down in a notebook or on their phone. Once you start recognising these negative thought patterns you can then try challenging them. Together, you could ask:  

  • what facts or evidence there is to support this thought? 

  • could there be another explanation? 

  • what would other people say? 

  • could we be jumping to conclusions? 

Often, it’s not black and white and there are other factors at play.

The next step is to then replace the negative ones with more helpful or realistic ones. Although it can be difficult at the start, over time and with practice, positive thoughts might come more naturally.  

Resolve bullying

Bullying is when someone intentionally hurt someone else. It might involve name calling, teasing, spreading rumours or physically hitting or pushing someone.  

It can happen anywhere – at school, home, or online – and if left unchecked, it can take a toll on a child’s mental and emotional wellbeing.  

We know just how difficult it can be for children to admit if they’re being bulling. But bullying is something that no one should have to deal with alone.  

Whether it’s happening now, or happened in the past, it’s important to remind your child that bullying is never okay, and that they can talk to you about how they’re feeling whenever they want.  

If they don’t want to talk to you, you could suggest that they have a chat with another trusted adult such as a teacher or family member.  

If the bullying is online, you can show them how to block or report their bully online. Or if it’s happening at school or a club, you could talk to the person in charge and ask if they have an anti-bullying policy and what actions they’re going to take.  

Sleep better 

Getting a good night’s sleep is important for our mental wellbeing. So, if you find that your child is struggling to get enough shut eye, here a few changes that could help: 

  • Create a relaxing environment – Most people find that dark, quiet, and cool places are best for sleeping.  

  • Create a routine – Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day will help your child sleep better 

  • Make dietary changes – Tea, coffee and other caffeinated drinks can stop your child from drifting off to sleep 

  • Cut down on screentime – Scrolling through their phone or watching TV just before bed can make your child feel wired and awake. So, try to switch off devices at least an hour before bed.  

If your child is tired or exhausted for a long period of time, it might be worth chatting to your GP as it may be a sign of another problem, such as insomnia or depression. 

Exercise more 

Staying active is vital for children’s physical health, but it can also boost their mood too. That's because when we exercise the body releases feel-good chemicals called endorphins.

Here are a few ways you can encourage your child to move more: 

  • Encourage them to take up an active hobby – Whether they fancy joining a netball team or want to get stuck into gardening, a hobby can be a great way for your child to socialise and stay active. 

  • Challenge them – Why not engage their competitive side with an activity challenge? For instance, you could see who can take the most steps in a day. Not only will it encourage them to get moving, but it will also give them a sense of achievement.  

  • Do it together – From a brisk walk on the beach to a family game of kickabout, finding ways you can be active together is a great way to connect and create good habits. 

Young girl holding teddy bear

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