With the busy holiday season fast approaching it’s very easy time of the year for routines and healthful behaviours formed through the year to slip. Children especially may begin to show signs of some ‘wear’ and ‘tear’ with the end of the final school term in sight. While the focus at school may tend to be directed at academic learning and achievement, it’s also important to watch for any signs of social and emotional difficulties, which may arise in the up and coming weeks.
The following 5 tips are helpful to recognise early warning signs and assist your child to adjust and transition through the end of year period:
1. Check in daily with your child: Ask your child how they are doing and feeling, and if there is anything significant happening in their life. Talking about feelings, through describing and labelling emotions, is one of the first steps in assisting children to learn to manage their feelings. Also, intimate knowledge of your child’s life will help to build your connection and a strong relationship.
2. Spend time together: Families with healthy relationships enjoy time together and prioritise the planning of activities together. Activities don’t need to be complicated or expensive, sometimes the simplest activities can become the most important (e.g. Sunday morning breakfasts, Friday night movie nights). Spending relaxed time together can help build strong relationships, and good family connections provide a protective base for children to explore and navigate the world from.
3. Maintain routines and consistency: A sense of security can be provided to children when parts of their day are consistent and predictable. Further, routines can teach children important health habits and provide a sense of mastery - such as doing house-hold chores, brushing teeth and having a regular bed-time.
4. Engage in Self-care : It’s important for parents to take the time to care for their own mental health and wellness – for their own wellbeing, but also because effort directed towards self care has significant benefits for children. Parents who take care of their health are less likely to feel ‘burned out’ and have more patience and energy to give to family members. Self-care strategies to assist mood may include; engaging in regular exercise, daily meditations (e.g. guided meditations), listening to uplifting music, connecting with friends and spending time in nature.
5. Monitor for signs of not coping: Signs of emotional difficulty may include kids expressing ‘big’ worries and feelings, such as voicing fears of falling asleep alone and in their own bed, school refusal and/or reluctance to attend, no longer enjoying favourite activities and increased complaints of headaches and upset stomachs. Some children also have difficulty expressing their emotions in helpful ways, and may become easily irritable, overly emotional, ‘clingy’ to parents, or increasingly engage in arguments with siblings.
Strong social and emotional skills learnt early childhood serve to powerfully benefit children’s attitudes and behaviors, academic performance, relationships, and later adult health outcomes. Parents and caregivers are important role models who can help guide children to develop their social and emotional skills. Strong social and emotional skills increases our little one’s capacity to build strong relationships, have emotional awareness, a strong self concept and the ability to identify, understand, and communicate feelings in socially helpful ways.
Please remember that - WE ARE HERE TO HELP. If you and your young person need some extra support please get and touch and see our Child and Adolescent Psychologist, Tegan Hopkins for more strategies and skills to make your life (and theirs) better.