The theme for Children’s Mental Health Week 2021 is Express Yourself.
One in six school-age children have a diagnosable mental health disorder. This has increased since 2017, when figures showed one in nine. It is so, very important, to teach children various ways of expressing themselves, to allow them to show and share their emotions in healthy ways. However, simply talking about how we feel may not always be enough.
There is a power behind creativity when it comes to healing and displaying our thoughts, feelings and emotions. Not only for children, but for adults too!
Sunshine House shared five ways that we can help children to express themselves:
- Emphasise the Arts: Art is an easy way for children to express their feelings without having to say anything. Art is not strictly limited to drawing and painting, but also includes music, dancing and performance, as well as writing! Art therapy is proven to improve physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.
- Support their style decisions: We should allow children to pick out their own clothing, even if we think that their choices are silly or mismatched. This allows them to develop a sense of self and can also help them to develop greater confidence as they get older, making them less self-conscious in regards to being their unique selves. Marc Jacobs once said ‘To me, clothing is a form of self-expression – there are hints about who you are in what you wear.’
- Offer them opportunities to choose: When children reach a certain age, we should start to introduce them to opportunities to make decisions for themselves. For example, we can prompt toddlers to choose a book that they would like to read at bed time or we can allow older children to have a bigger say in how their bedroom is decorated. This can help them to see what they like and what they do not like as well as helping them to better understand themselves.
- Encourage exploration: It is important that we allow children to explore their own interests, rather than choosing activities for them. This is even more important as children get older and start to choose after school activities to partake in, avoiding selecting these activities for them. For example, if you have a little girl who asks to join a local football team, let her try it out and see where it goes, if she enjoys it, great! If she decides it is not for her, that is great too, encourage her to find something else to dip her toes into! It is much better for children to find their niche on their own accord.
- Talk about your feelings: We are big role models in the lives of children. Whether you be a parent, an aunt/uncle, a baby sitter, a big sibling or a teacher, children tend to look up to you as an adult. Therefore it is important to teach the children around you that it is okay to express how they feel as well as teaching them how to better understand their feelings.
I myself used to take dance lessons when I was younger. I did this for around 12 years and I loved every second! No matter how I was feeling, dance always had a way of allowing me to express those emotions and make me feel better, without ever having to communicate verbally with anyone.
Even now, I find that music always has a way of making me feel better! I also find writing poetry to be a good outlet for my thoughts and feelings.
I could not agree more, that it is important to teach children about the importance of expressing themselves and talking about their emotions, as talking can definitely help! However, on the occasions that talking is not enough, we should definitely encourage other healthy outlets, such as art!
Keep an eye on our social media pages throughout this week for conversation starters and fun activities to help us to express our emotions in various ways.