Listen, respond and validate their feelings

WEST KENT MIND GIVE THEIR ADVICE ON HOW WE CAN LISTEN TO OUR KIDS WITHOUT UNDERMINING THEIR SIGNIFICANCE.

The summer holidays are now upon us, marking the end of what has been a strange and challenging academic year for children, young adults, teachers and parents. As parents, we have been juggling our own commitments, uncertainties and concerns while trying to also provide support and love to our children, who have seen their world’s disrupted in a way that can seem grossly unfair and confusing.

We have all heard first-hand accounts of cancelled or postponed exams, disappointment over missing out on marking the end of a school era and concerns about an uncertain job market and employment prospects for young people.

Our teachers have had to work and adapt as never before, the strain of which must not be underestimated. Studies have focused on the reported deterioration in the mental health of young people during the Coronavirus outbreak and it is well known that motivation, creativity and mental health are intrinsically linked and feeling a lack of purpose is a natural by-product. We must, however, not overlook the impact on those who are there to guide and support our young people through these unprecedented times.

As we have previously written for Sevenoaks Sport & Wellbeing magazine, the sources of stress for our children are not hugely different to our own, but it is widely agreed that children are under more pressure than ever before and this has been exacerbated with recent events.

Whether the pressure is emotional, environmental, physical or related to life changes, everyone has a limit to what they can healthily cope with and this differs for everyone. We tend to focus, as parents, on the behavioural manifestations, which we may interpret or see as stroppy behaviour, monosyllabic responses, a lack of focus on school work, etc. Crucially though, it is how, as adults, we listen, respond and validate their feelings, without undermining their significance.

It is also of upmost importance that we are aware of our own judgements and preconceived perceptions. Keeping lines of communication open with honest conversations is key and will help our young people navigate through these difficult and confusing times. None of this is new, but a timely reminder that we all need to be aware of our own and other’s trigger points and coping mechanisms.

We provide support to parents and teachers locally through various channels and have a team of experienced mental health professionals who run workshops on specific topics where we dispel myths and develop an understanding through interactive talks and experience sharing.

Just having the opportunity to talk with another parent who may have had or be having a similar experience can be very powerful and valuable. We stress to all parents, teachers, coaches or mentors that you cannot pour from an empty cup and that self-care has to be a priority, especially when you are supporting others. We are all guilty of thinking we are too busy to dedicate time to ourselves but self-care is not selfish and can be as simple as incorporating small punctuations throughout your day that help to release pressure from our stress container.

Many of our support groups and training workshops focus on developing and increasing our own self-awareness, recognising the signs when our own mental health is being compromised and being able to develop and implement protective measures. Reaching out for support and talking to trusted friends, colleagues or a charity such as West Kent Mind is crucial.

• For more information on the courses that we offer or for further support, please contact the training team on training@westkentmind.org.uk and sign up to our newsletter for updates and news on all of our services, support and events at westkentmind.org.uk/category/news.

Upcoming Events
• Wednesday 15th September, 10.00am-11.30am – Understanding Your Mental Health
• Wednesday 22nd September, 10.00am-11.30am – Understanding Depression
• Wednesday 29th September, 12.00pm-1.30pm – Understanding Stress & Anxiety

• All three courses are £40 per person, with all profits supporting the sustainability of your local mental
health charity. For more information and to book, please contact training@westkentmind.org.uk.