Wellbeing: Physical and mental health hacks for families
How does the connection between physical and mental wellbeing work in children? Sarah Kendrick, Head of Service for the children's mental health charity Place2Be, explains this and offers some simple tips for looking after your health as a family.
We’ve all heard that our bodies and minds are closely connected. Champion athletes claim that victory depends on the right mind-set as well as training. Chefs tell us the perfect meal can improve your mood. You may even have seen ‘body map’ diagrams which demonstrate the parts of the body that get ‘activated’ when we experience certain emotions.
However, when it comes to the relationship between physical and mental wellbeing, parents and carers are experts in their own right. When your child is hungry or tired, you can often see it in their mood and behaviour. They might become grumpy and argumentative, or sad and withdrawn, or struggle to focus – familiar sights if you’ve ever noticed them finishing homework at the eleventh hour.
We’ve all been there ourselves, reading the same email over and over after skipping breakfast and rushing to work. Our experience as busy people as well as parents tells us that doing the basic things for our physical wellbeing – eating, being active, sleeping – has a positive effect on our mental wellbeing. Both are crucial to help us feel better in ourselves and focus on what we want to do.
Exploring this connection can help us to understand more serious issues too. Children who struggle with anxiety, for example, may display what we call psychosomatic symptoms – signs that we’d associate with physical illness, like tummy aches, or using the toilet excessively – and because children don’t always use words to communicate feelings, we might spot these first.
For Children’s Mental Health Week 2019 (4-10 February), Place2Be is encouraging everyone to take steps to be ‘Healthy: Inside and Out’. The pressure of being responsible for another person’s physical and mental wellbeing might feel like a lot, but looking after yourselves as a family doesn’t have to involve complicated rituals.
You can begin by having a simple chat with your child about what you do for your body and mind. Whether it’s walking the dog or turning your phones off before bed, sharing the steps you take can set a good example. Don’t be afraid to admit it if you’ve struggled, too - it’s important for children to keep trying, even when things are difficult.
Next, try doing something regularly with your child to be ‘Healthy: Inside and Out’. Family life can be busy and stressful at times but cooking a meal or baking together, sitting down for a family dinner, or going for a walk as a family can be a great way to stay connected and have fun.
Positive reinforcement is important too. Praise your child and other family members for what they do to look after their body and mind – even if it’s small. If your child sees healthy living in a positive light, they’re more likely to carry on doing these things throughout life.
Your child might be tempted to compare themselves to other children, especially on social media, so remind yourselves that there’s no such thing as a perfect body or mind – and no one is perfectly healthy! Everyone’s bodies and minds are different – and that’s something to celebrate.
Place2Be is a children's mental health charity that works to improve the emotional wellbeing of pupils, families, teachers and school staff. Find out more about Place2Be
Place2Be launched the first ever Children’s Mental Health Week in 2015 to shine a spotlight on the importance of children and young people’s mental health. Find out more about Children’s Mental Health Week 2019
Find out more about the link between mind and body on the Kings Health Partners website
Released On 18th Jan 2019