“The children who need love the most will always ask for it in the most unloving ways.”
As a parent or carer you can play a vital role in supporting psychological wellbeing of your child. One of the most common questions asked is What can I do to support them?
Imagine this... you go to the garden to see your child has started a campfire. You immediately panic, telling them to "Put it out! Stop! Stay Away! What did you do that for?"
All this without questioning why did the child start the fire in the first place. Was it a cry for attention? Are they trying to show their survival skills? Could it even be that they were scared or cold?
Quite often we can be guilty of categorising "bad" behaviour as just that - bad. When we look deeper beneath the surface, there can be many indicators of more meaning behind the so-called behaviour.
are you really listening?
A core element of supporting psychological wellbeing and positive mental health is the ability of the adult to allow the young people to talk freely about what is inside their heads. This will be their feelings, their thoughts, their opinions, their unique view of their world.
"The most important thing when active listening is... Not to rush. Take time to listen and hear what is being shared. Sometimes, going for a walk or doing an activity is helpful when having these types of conversations."
Amy - Counsellor & Service Manager - The Exchange
Active listening follows a set of simple guidelines in order to keep the focus on what the young person is saying while keeping your opinions and views out of the conversation as much as possible.
The aim of “active listening” is to carefully pay attention to what is being said by the young person so that
a) you are trying to see their world as they see it
b) the young person knows they are being understood (not judged or being trivialised)
c) the person is encouraged to say a little bit more
There are a few basic key principles to focus on:
• Allow silence (take things slowly)
• Repeat words which the person has said so they know you have “registered” these words
• Summarise what you have understood to check out whether you are getting it
• Do not express judgement or disagreement, just empathy
Download our handy FREE Active Listening Cheat Sheet for more our top tips >
start as you mean to go on
Studies have found that those who start the day off feeling "happy or calm" usually maintained it throughout the day. Conversely those who started in a terrible mood didn't feel any better- in fact they felt worse by the end of the day, regardless of positive influences or interactions.
Wharton School - University of Pennsylvania 2016
start the day right
As adults we know the impact the right start to the morning can have on the rest of our day. A good nights sleep and an organised and stress-free morning sets us up to make the most of our day. However when it comes to children and young people we often see them as the "cause" of our additional stress in our morning routine.
A common issue raised by the children and young people we support is the impact that their morning routine can have on the rest of their day. Rushed, stressful mornings can start feelings of anxiety. Frustrated parents juggling the school run, meal planning and school activities, at times for multiple children can unintentionally direct their own emotions onto the child or young person.
Ultimately communication is key. Our experience working with children & young people have found it can often be simple miscommunication which triggers a cascade of events.
A stressful start to the morning can have a lasting effect on our day. A simple solution used by our counsellors is creating a family morning planner. Use this is a guide in the morning and adapt it when circumstances change. By recognising each member of the family goes through their morning in a different process, we can aim to reduce conflict and work towards a more seamless routine.
Download our FREE Morning Planner >
"It's one of the things I hear most from parents that can have a massive impact. Starting the morning right with some simple changes -it's all about communicating.
Louise - Resilience Coach - The Exchange
"Your breakfast is ready, hurry up and come downstairs to eat it."
"Downstairs now- it's getting cold. Put that phone down! Stop being difficult"
"We need to leave in 2 minutes. Why haven't you finished your toast yet? Wasting food yet again!"
"Leave it, we need to leave now! Why can't you ever be ready on time? Now I'm late too!"
"I'm almost ready, just want to have a look on my phone to see what my friends are saying this morning."
"I'm not ready for my toast yet- I hate when it's cold!"
"Oh no they're shouting again. I better go down, but how can I check where I'm meeting my friends before class?"
"I don't even want this toast- it's cold. Now I'm late and I can't see my friends. I don't even want to go in to school."
Picture the progression in this morning routine...
family check in
All emotions can be helpful and sharing where we are at emotionally with those around us can help when setting boundaries and building empathy. To do this, set aside some time as a family for a 'check in.' Here are some tips on how to get started.
Find a comfortable location in the home where the check in can take place. A room where everyone has somewhere to sit, this could be a lounge, dining room or any communal space.
Agree on an object that will be held by the person who is speaking. This is to ensure that each person gets a chance to speak without interruption.
Each person now takes it in turns to speak. The person speaking should hold the object and when they are finished they should pass the object to the next person.
Once everyone has taken their turn to speak, all members of the group can engage in a discussion about what has come up. Paying special attention to the needs and boundaries of others this can be an opportunity to connect and share thoughts, worries, concerns and reflections
Perhaps if this activity becomes a regular family fixture, topics and themes can be decided ahead of time with the aim of encouraging meaningful conversation and understanding