This week is Children’s Mental Health week in the UK, led by Place 2Be. The annual week was started in 2015 to highlight the importance of children and young people’s mental health. There have been different themes including; kindness, healthy inside out, find your brave and being ourselves.
This year, the theme is express yourself – finding ways to share how you are feeling, your thoughts and your ideas through creativity. It is about finding a way to express who you are, and how you see the world.
Good mental and physical health are the blocks on which everything else; all life learning, is built upon. It can be so easy to focus on school work, or learning activities, that we forget to look after the foundations. Although the official week is almost over, the activities we’ve done have been very helpful. Giving space for self-expression will definitely be at the forefront of my mind throughout this year and beyond.
We (at the time of writing) are in the middle of a pandemic, and you’re probably juggling work, homeschool and everything else you have on your shoulders. The Duchess of Cambridge (patron of Place 2Be) reminds us in her message to start the week, “whilst this is children’s mental health week, there has never been a more important time to talk about parental mental health and wellbeing too.”
Since homeschool/ national lock-down round 2, I often feel like my head is going to explode with everything I have to do. I imagine you may be feeling the same way.
The foundation blocks of everything
This Children’s Mental Health Week has allowed me to reflect on the importance of our mental health as a family; how we prioritise things, and how easy it is to be overwhelmed. If we think of it like a game of Jenga;
At the bottom of the tower, the foundation, is your (parent and caregiver) mental and physical health. All the activities & practices that keep you healthy reside here – this could be exercise, meditation, seeing friends and family, hugs, good food, love, connection, laughter, reading etc.
Built on top of these foundational blocks are your children’s mental health blocks; time with you, playing, exercise, love, connection, having fun, self-expression, healthy food, etc.
We have some other things that are important and that prop up the two foundational layers – our income that enables us to have food, shelter and security. Our work can often be a foundational block if it gives us joy and fulfilment.
On top of these two layers of foundational blocks come everything else involved with family life – at the moment, homeschool for many of us, activities for the kids that aren’t directly related to their mental health, washing, tidying, cleaning, admin, etc.
There are only so many blocks we can have on the tower, so sometimes we might substitute things. For example; homeschool and chores take the place of our self-care practices. But if we substitute too many things, the tower falls down.
The question I’m asking myself is this: how many of those important foundation blocks are being taken away today? If all the blocks are being taken away, how important is finishing EVERYTHING, when really, we need to put the love and connection block back, and go and play a game together?
Which blocks are you prioritising?
Home schooling and other educational activities are important for learning, but they are rendered useless if YOU are not OK. If you are putting too much pressure on yourself, are unwell, burnt out, anxious, stressed out, then all the amazing Pinterest boards in the world are not going to help.
Children learn far more from who we are, than the activities we put in front of them.
The most important piece in their learning puzzle is you. You need to look after yourself and be looked after.
If there are activities that you all enjoy doing, then great. If you get through the homeschool work, then well done. If not, then DON’T WORRY. You are doing an AWESOME JOB.
We need to embody the messages we want to send to our children.
You are enough.
And just in case you haven’t had a hug today – I’m sending you a virtual