Children’s mental health is a serious issue in Australia. Currently, 1 in 7 Australian children aged 4 to 17 are diagnosed with some form of mental health condition.
There are a number of factors which have contributed to the rising incidents of mental health diagnosis in children. These include increased access to devices and social media, less time spent outdoors, decline in social networks for parents and children, and increased academic pressures.
Children can become very overwhelmed when learning to navigate the world and this can result in the “tantrums” that parents often dread. While we can’t guarantee your child will never become overwhelmed with emotion, there are plenty of things that you can do to assist them to manage these big feelings.
At Leap Start we utilise a variety of strategies to build up children’s emotional toolbox. All of these strategies can be easily replicated at home.
- Yoga- start with simple stretching exercises for a few minutes a day then build on these with some fun poses. There are some great animal-based poses which help make the experience more interesting for children and still allow them to experience the benefits of yoga. You could also try a yoga story for children. The Cosmic Kids Yoga YouTube channel has some great yoga stories based on popular children’s books and movie characters.
- Meditation- For younger children it’s good to begin this practice by giving them an object to focus on, this could be as simple as a picture or a toy. At Leap Start we often use candle meditation using a lit candle (under close supervision from Educators, of course).
- Breathing exercises- You can begin breathing exercises from a very young age with something as simple as blowing bubbles or blowing on a pinwheel. As children get older and gain more control over their breathing you can introduce the counting breath of “breathe in 1, 2, 3 breathe out 1, 2, 3”.
- Sensory experiences and resources- Sensory play is super important to being in the here and now. As children concentrate on exploring with their senses their focus shifts from outside stresses to a more physical internal monologue. Sensory experiences can be as simple as finger painting or making playdough. Yes, they are often messy but messy play is good for the soul. You can also make resources like calming bottles for those times or places when mess may not be the most appropriate thing. You can find instructions on how to make these at the following link, https://www.thecreativetoyshop.com.au/blogs/activity-guides/5-easy-sensory-bottles
- Nature adventures- Nature is an invaluable resource when it comes to mental health. There are thousands of studies which link being out in nature to improved mental health. Take a walk to your local parklands. If you are feeling a little more adventurous choose a bushwalking trail close to where you live. Rest assured your child is probably a lot more capable of walking long distances then you might think. The Department of Parks and Wildlife in conjunction with Trails WA have produced a great app that you can use to find bush walks around your area, https://parks.dpaw.wa.gov.au/connect/trails-wa-mobile-app-trails-palm-your-hand .
We can all help our children to develop better coping mechanisms which will assist them in times of stress. With Families, Early Learning Services and Schools working together, hopefully, we can reduce the growing number of children diagnosed with mental health conditions in this country.