It’s Children’s Mental Health Week next week, and it’s more important than ever this year.
With several lockdowns, social distancing measures, ever-changing coronavirus (COVID-19) guidelines and prolonged absences from school having such a detrimental affect on the mental health and wellbeing of children, this year’s Children’s Mental Health Week has a particular resonance.
And so former primary school teacher Laura Steele – of education experts PlanBee – has gathered together week’s worth of fantastic free resources all in one downloadable pack for parents / carers / guardians to use during the homeschooling day to help children explore their mental health.
Each activity aims to give kids the tools to express their thoughts and feelings in a way they have never been able to achieve before.
Here’s what’s on the agenda.
Dealing With Physical Sensations
These posters aim to help your child understand some of the physical sensations that accompany different feelings.
By exploring and discussing the vocabulary on each poster, you could ask children – Do you know what this word means? Have you ever felt like this? What made you feel this way? Could you add any more words to either of the posters?
Older children may find the Synonym Booklet of Emotions more useful to expand their vocabulary and help them to better express themselves.
An Emoji That Fits Your Mood
Use these 16 feelings and emotions cards to develop discussion around a range of different feelings with the questions below each emoji. If your children cannot think of an example, you could describe and explain a time when you felt this way.
They could also be asked whether each of the cards represent a ‘warm fuzzy’ or a ‘cold prickly’ feeling, picking up on yesterday’s discussions.
You could then challenge your child to use the Design Your Own Emotion Emojis sheet to create their own versions, and encourage them to think about their personal experience of each emotion, and think carefully about the shape, colour, size and facial expression they choose.
That Nagging Feeling
Wednesday’s resource focuses on a specific feeling – worry, or anxiety.
Tell your child that everyone experiences this feeling sometimes, and more often than not, acknowledging and talking about the reasons why you are worried or anxious can help you to feel better. These Worry Monster Activity Sheets can help your children to voice, and then deal with, any anxieties they may have.
Take A Deep Breath
Anger and frustration can be difficult emotions for anyone to deal with, not least children, so these posters offer a range of techniques that can be used almost anywhere, in any situation.
The first four posters (The Calm Down Cake, The Slow Down Star, The Slow Down Square and the Helping Hand) direct children to focus on their breathing, using an image to help them do this. Discuss and practise the techniques together, first with and then without the posters in front of them, so children realise that these strategies can be successful using only their imagination if needed.
The final poster in the pack (5…4…3…2…1), may be more suitable for older children, as they are directed to use all of their senses to focus and calm the mind, and they can do this for the actual environment they are in, or an imagined one, such as a park, a beach or a forest.
The mental benefits of meditation are now widely recognised – for children as well as adults.
Research has shown that short, regular meditation sessions can have a positive effect on children’s attention, focus, self-awareness, and their management of thoughts and feelings, so this Guide Sheet is a simple, easy introduction to meditation, with step-by-step instructions to follow.
Try a short session with your child and ask them how they feel afterwards.
You could try to add a session like this into your daily routine, and see what effect it has over time on your child’s emotional wellbeing.
Developing A Growth Mindset
A person with a fixed mindset feels that they have no control over their abilities or problems they may face, but someone with a growth mindset knows that they can improve their abilities and overcome difficulties if they persevere and are patient with themselves.
Discuss these differences with your child, and look at the poster for examples of each type of mindset.
What type of mindset does your child think they have, and why? Why might it be better to have a growth mindset?
Children could use the blank poster provided to write their own personal examples of statements they made when they felt they had a fixed mindset, and how they could turn this around into a growth mindset statement.
Looking On The Bright Side
You can end the week on a positive note with this activity, where children are encouraged to think about all the different aspects of their life that they are thankful for.
A blank template is included for children to record these thoughts.
The I am Lucky Because… activity sheet may be more suitable for younger children, where they are encouraged to think about and complete the sentences, ‘I am lucky because I can…’, ‘I am lucky because I am’… and ‘I am lucky because I have…’.
You can download Plan Bee’s Children’s Mental Health Week activity pack for FREE here.