Children and teenagers currently only receive around six per cent of the NHS mental health budget so I welcomed the news that the government has announced an extra £1.25 billion funding for mental health services.
Many children have no problem dealing with life’s ups and downs but, with four per cent of UK children suffering from an emotional disorder, the need for mental health funding is more important than ever.
Every parent wants their child to grow up to be a happy and confident adult so it’s a sobering thought that half a million children in the UK are dealing with anxiety or depression. These issues can often develop as a result of low self-esteem, and the impact of social media on youngsters’ self-confidence is being widely debated as a result.
I am increasingly being asked by parents for advice on how to spot any potential problems early on in their children, and now run courses in how to raise confident children. The approach may be different depending on whether your child is a boy or girl. With boys, it is useful to give them strategies to help recognise and express their emotions, as well as appreciate the difference between assertiveness and aggression while bolstering their self-confidence. Girls can face different challenges, particularly relating to social expectations around women and femininity, and find it helpful to talk through their emotions while also better understanding how to confidently assert themselves in a range of situations.
Talk to your child but, more importantly, listen. When youngsters feel listened to and understood it strengthens their inner confidence and self-belief which in turn helps them to make positive and healthy choices in life. A lack of confidence and potentially feeling judged can lead to a child retreating into themselves and becoming more isolated, and parents often need support with communicating effectively with their child throughout this process.
Top tips for parents include providing feedback and giving your child regular praise and encouragement, while developing easy-to-apply strategies which help engagement with your child from an early age. Demonstrating a safe amount of trust in your children and giving them the tools to make decisions – even small ones – often leads to a significant reduction in negative behaviour and will boost their self-confidence. Children want to grow up fast and parents need to support them whilst tempering their zest from time to time. Allowing your child to take control in decision-making and feel as though their opinion is valued will also help build long-term self-esteem.
For further information and advice visit www.edinburghtherapy.co.uk.
Professor Ewan Gillon is First Psychology Scotland’s clinical director