“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”
This year’s theme for Child Mental Health week is “Find your Brave”, focusing on the development of confidence and self-esteem in children and young people. Bravery is not about coping alone, but about finding ways to overcome difficult physical or emotional challenges. Adults are the crucial ingredient in the development of this confidence and capacity in children – it is their relationships with adults that lay the foundations for good mental health and resilience.
The World Health Organisation defines mental health as:
A state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.
This is much more than merely the absence of mental disorder. This state of mental health develops in the context of relationships, children are dependent on the relationships they have with the adults in their lives, as well as with their peers. The challenge is, that as adults, we can have difficult feelings and mental health problems too; there is an interplay between the mental and emotional health of the adult and that of the child.
It is therefore crucial that we invest in building the mental and emotional capabilities of the adults in children’s lives. We know many of the factors that lay the foundations for good mental health in children; secure attachment to their primary caregiver in the early years; social supports in the family and wider community; positive self-beliefs related to optimism, self-esteem, and sense of autonomy.
Adults at home and at school benefit from the Nurturing Programme’s approach to developing emotional health. We can all learn to support children to “find their brave” by:
Accepting challenges and difficult feelings as a normal part of life
Finding opportunities to listen, use empathy and reflect back feelings
Helping children (and ourselves) to find ways to self-regulate, to monitor and manage how they express difficult feelings and calm themselves when challenged or stressed
Taking a problem solving approach, encouraging children to find their own solutions with our support
Demonstrating healthy ways to look after our own needs and helping children to find ways to look after theirs too.
We can all help to develop an emotionally healthy culture at home and at school, a culture in which everyone can thrive.
To find out more about the Nurturing Programme and Family Links’ range of emotional health training courses and resources, and how we can help you and the families and children you work with, contact us or explore our website.