Today is World Mental Health Day, a day I often like to reflect and think about how far I’ve come in regards to my own mental health. Since coming to terms with it, and understanding that just like any visible or physical injury; where you need to make adjustments due a sudden change, mental health needs to be treated exactly the same way.
On good days I don’t pick my arms, I don’t feel nauseous, and tasks around the home are streamline and effortless. On bad days, well, you get the drift. Over the past few years I’ve been more open and honest about how I’m feeling, and likewise I’ve stopped and really listened to the signs of my mind telling me it’s struggling.
Not only that, one of the other benefits to addressing and taking control of my own mental health is now being able to recognise when others are struggling – primarily friends, but especially my family. Sharon and I haven’t always been the best at expressing, but now that we have a child we’ve become a lot better at expressing ourselves as well as inviting T to express how he’s feeling. This is now amplified now that T has started school which often comes with waves of emotions and awkward social situations.
We all have Mental Health
I used to think that Mental Health was something you deal with as you became “a grown up” something you don’t have to worry about as a child. After all, what on earth do young people have to “worry” about? I assumed it was something that only really address when there’s a problem. But this is so far from the truth. Childrens mental health is also so important.
As well as the usual pressures young people face, they’re often unaware of other factors at play that can have a detrimental effect on the way they may later react to things. Things like OCD, something I’m all too familiar with, can have massive effect on how a child might socialise. Anxiety might result in a child not wanting to attend a birthday party. Which is why it is so important to get a good understanding of their feelings as early as possible.
At home, we practise this often by asking how T is feeling. Sometimes we do this in the morning between breakfast and waking up – especially if T is quiet – or as we’re shutting down for the night as a way to summarise the day. On the same hand, when T has become angry or sad we encourage him to tell us how something has made him feel, instead of expressing it with actions. Likewise, when T complains of a tummy ache, we ask whether it’s a “worried tummy” or a “sick tummy”. During his last few weeks of nursery, we found T suffered with quite a few “tummy aches” which we concluded was down to the anxiety of starting school (even though he was super excited!) as they went away as soon as he started.
Another way we’ve explored our mental health is through reading, and over the past few years I’ve found some wonderful books about feelings and emotions, as well as how to deal with certain situations. One of our favourite places to find these books is A Little Bag of Books in Lewes thanks to a dedicated section just on ‘Feelings’.
Here are a few of our favourites:
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Using subtle watercolours, Today I Feel …follows a child through a wide range of emotions, from loved to curious to strong.
Using the assistances of flaps, this interactive book follows and array of child characters and familiar situations, where the reader will find answers and reassurance when they are feeling happy, sad, frightened, brave, and everything in between.
“Most of the time Ravi can control his temper but, one day, he lets out the tiger within . Being a tiger is great fun at first – tigers can do ANYTHING they want! But who wants to play with a growling, roaring, noisy, wild tiger who won’t share or play nicely?”
A very clever and engaging book on moods and ways to express and understand them. Perfect for those “bad days”.
“We all have worries now and then, but sometimes worries can feel like they’re getting bigger and bigger, like you can’t control them any more. What do you do then?”
This is a gentle introduction to emotional literacy by talking about issues that young people will often face. From falling out with a friend to getting in trouble at school, or feeling like no one is listening to them. It talks about how they might feel, what they might think, and what could help them to feel better.
“Did you know Wrestlers have feelings? And Knights. Even superheroes feel sad sometimes.”
With bold and colourful illustrations, parents and children will be able to enjoy a light-hearted discussion on emotions and how they effect us all.
“Unlike other feelings books that tend to oversimplify, In My Heart lyrically explains what an emotion feels like, physically, inside. For example: “When I get really angry, my heart feels like it’s going to explode! Don’t come near me! My heart is yelling, hot and loud.”
“Teach your kids how to focus their thoughts and notice the world around them with this fun mindfulness kids activity book.”
Packed with a variety of activities – some only taking a matter of minutes – Calm: Mindfulness for Kids has everything you need to know about your child’s mind so that you can assist them in enjoying and appreciating some of the things that they take for granted, whilst also boosting their confidence.
“Blue is for the calm I feel wandering in the spring. Yellow is for happy when I spot a special thing.”
Wince is a Worry Monster, and his greatest nemesis is the WorryBug. This whimsical tale follows the story of Wince and how he deals with every day emotions.
Ruby loves being Ruby. Until, one day, she finds a worry. At first it’s not such a big worry, and that’s all right, but then it starts to grow. It gets bigger and bigger every day and it makes Ruby sad. How can Ruby get rid of it and feel like herself again?
This is a beautiful and poignant book about anxiety and hidden worries.
Another interactive book to help very young children explore the world of emotions. The perfect springboard for family discussions on feelings.
“Red has a bright red label, but he is, in fact, blue. His teacher tries to help him be red (let’s draw strawberries!), his mother tries to help him be red by sending him out on a playdate with a yellow classmate (go draw a nice orange!), and the scissors try to help him be red by snipping his label so that he has room to breathe. But Red is miserable.”
Red is an insightful book about being true to your inner self and following your own path despite obstacles that may come your way.
“Children have strong feeling and they can’t always handle them very well.”
This is a delightful book packed full of ideas to help young children deal (and parents) deal with their emotions.
“Meet Kevin. A koala who likes to keep things the same. Exactly the same. But sometimes change comes along whether we like it or not… And, as Kevin discovers, if you step outside your comfort zone and try new things, you might just surprise yourself!”
You cannot beat a book that rhymes, so when you put that with gorgeous illustrations you’re in for a real treat.
“Hector loves his cozy, snuggly, safe home. It’s his favorite place to be. Hector loves his home so much that he doesn’t often go out, and soon, it starts to affect his friendships. Can Hector find the courage to break out of his comfort zone?”
“Little Bear is a worrier. He worries about everything! But with Mama Bear’s help, he soon learns his worries are not so big after all.”
This beautiful book will explain to children that every day worries and fears can be overcome, and that we can always learn from our mistakes.
This bright and colourful book will take children through the principles of mindfulness through via each letter of the Alphabet along with fun rhymes and rhythms.