Children’s Mental Health: How can I help at home?
When it comes to helping your child at home there are three key points to remember:
- Spend special time together, one on one is best.
- Think about the causes of behaviour, rather than focusing purely on the behaviour itself.
- Set boundaries, say yes when you can and no when you have to.
- Spend special time together, one on one.
As Parent Support Workers our starting point with parents is always ‘How can we build a good relationship with our child?’ We do not assume that things are working well and that parents like their children! It’s difficult to address the negative without first building on the positive aspects of the relationship.
Often parents come to us saying ‘help – she ignores me’ or ‘he will not get off his phone’, or ‘she is so rude’. Rather than starting off with the problematic behaviour, as Parent Support Workers we start at the beginning and work with parents to identify ‘how can I build a better relationship with my child’.
We need to look for and create opportunities for spending time with our children, try to make time each week to spend some time with each child individually. When we work with parents with younger children we ask them to spend 1 0minutes per day doing ‘child led play’. With teenagers, we need to work a bit harder, and we would suggest 1-2 hours per week one to one. This could be a coffee/hot chocolate, breakfast out, a dog walk, anything that gives opportunity for conversation.
- Causes of behaviour and stages of development
When your child is behaving in a way you don’t like, rather than react, stop for a moment and think why. Why is she throwing all of her food on the floor? Why is he throwing himself on the floor? Could the causes of the behaviour be: hunger, boredom, tiredness, friendship stress, hormones, think about these before taking it personally. Do try and bear in mind the causes of upsetting behaviour, is it sleep time or nearly tea time?
Try and ignore negative behaviour, be it the pre-school temper tantrum, the door slam of an 11 year old or the rudeness of a 16 year old. The more you can ignore in the heat of the moment the easier it is. It’s much more effective to come back to it when things when you are both calm.
- Boundaries and defining consequences
Be prepared to have boundaries and consequences, all children will push against boundaries and this is normal. Boundaries make a child feel safe, so be prepared to put them in place and follow through with a consequence if boundaries are broken. Just make sure the consequences are age appropriate and relate to the event. There is no point in threatening to give all the birthday presents away, unless you are going to do it!