Since 2013, the 10th day of October has been set aside as a day to increase awareness about Mental Health around the globe and the need for us all to see our Mental Health and that of others as a priority. The theme for the World Mental Health Day 2022 is tagged “Make mental health for all a global priority” and as a health educator with a focus on helping young school children become exposed to health information and adopt healthy habits early, I will love to highlight on the importance of helping young school children become aware of what mental health is and how they can help improve their mental health state and that of others.
This article will highlight some roles the parents and schools can take to make mental health a priority for school children since they are major stakeholders with a huge influence in the lives of school children.
First, let’s find out what mental health is to give us all a better understanding of the perspective. The World Health Organisation have defined mental health as “a state of mental well-being that enables people to cope with stresses of life, realise their abilities, learn well and work well, and contribute to their community.” They further added that mental health is more than the absence of mental disorders. Most importantly, I will like us all to take not of the words I typed in bold form as they are the keywords this article will emphasize on.
Helping children cope with stresses of life.
The United Nations Children’s Fund(UNICEF) have defined stress as a common feeling we get when we feel under pressure, overwhelmed or unable to cope. Just as we adult go through life stresses, children also go through stress, they participate in daily activities, go through life experiences/situations and some emotions and all these could bring about some form of stress for them too. They are just as human as we their parents and teachers, so they go through a lot of things we go through too just in a different way. So how can we help them cope with stress?
As a parent or teacher, to help your child or the pupils in your class cope with stress, you must be able to cope with stress yourself. There is a saying “you cannot pour from an empty cup” so, if as a parent or teacher, you are not self-aware enough to be able to identify your stress triggers, label your feelings and find ways to help yourself feel better or at least cope so you won’t displace your unwanted feelings on the people around you then, there is no way you can help your child or the pupils in your class cope with stress. So our role first as parents and teachers here is to first help ourselves by learning how we can cope with stress then we will be able to help our children and the pupils in our class.
Another point is to know the child. when we know someone enough, we will be able to help the person when there is a need for it. As parents and teachers, we must be observant and study each of our child/pupil’s uniqueness, their personality, love languages, activities they like and more. All these will help you as a parent or teacher navigate your journey to helping each child cope with life situations, you will be able to help them identify the cause of the stress, label their emotions and things you can encourage them to do to help them cope with the situation and how they can calm themselves when they start displacing the unwanted feelings on other people. Helping our children and the pupils we teach learn ways they can cope with stress will help them maintain a good mental health state as stress is a normal part of life.
Helping children realise their abilities
We all have a way of contributing positively to the world, and the earlier we help our children realise this fact and identify the little ways, they can make positive contribution the better. This will help them feel loved and accepted and when a child feels this way, they are able to learn better, unleash and attain their full potential.
Though as a parent or teacher we might have expectation of what we want or wish for our child or pupil should know however, if these expectations are not met, it could get us frustrated and could affect the way we relate with the said child and most importantly, it would blind us from seeing the skill such child is good at thereby, gradually stunting their potentials.
As a parent or teacher it’s best you observe the uniqueness in your child or the children you teach, focus on the skills that are excellent at, while you help them develop those they struggle with, help them identify these skills and let them know that they are good at something. This feeling will help a child feel good about themselves thereby promoting a positive mental state.
Helping children Learn well and work well
There is a kind feeling of frustration that comes from being repeatedly taught something and not knowing or understanding it and children go through this feeling too when they find it difficult to understand what they are being taught in class or when they are unable to solve a problem. Parents and teachers must observe the child and help identify the way they learn best. We should profile our children or pupils and find out if they are visual, auditory, kinesthetic or reading and writing leaner, this way, we will be able to provide them with ways to help them learn what they are being taught and solve problems better.
Learning difficulties are major contributors to a negative mental health state in young children and when children can identify early the best way they learn, it will reduce the frustration that comes from learning thereby promoting a positive mental health state.
Helping children contribute to their community
When a child can cope with life stress, identify their abilities, learn and work well, there is no doubt they will be able to contribute to their community. This feeling of making a positive contribution can elevate a child’s feeling and mental health state.
When every parent and teacher do this, young children will see it as a norm and will also do the same when they become a parent or teacher and the cycle of promoting a positive mental health will become continuous.
Being able to act our roles as parents and teachers will require that we invest our time, money, and resources to learn. Taking parenting courses, read parenting education contents and books, learning more about mastery of emotions and more are the little ways we can develop ourselves and also help our children make mental health a priority. While we gather all the parenting education knowledge, remember to act on it as knowledge without action is as good as no knowledge.