Lockdown has been hard on children's mental health but talking through their feelings can help them just be kids again – Hayley Matthews

I've always been one to wear my heart on my sleeve. Talking about feelings is something that comes very naturally to me.

Friday, 5th March 2021, 4:45 pm
Talking about children's feelings is a good way to help them cope with lockdown, says Hayley Matthews (Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

However, I appreciate it's not easy for everyone to divulge the deepest and rawest feelings that swirl around in their head.

But for me, it's something that's been so important in getting me through difficult times and I believe firmly it is what's helped me recover from huge anxiety, stress and depression.

If I'd discovered this coping mechanism when I was 12, I think things would have been a lot more positive for me in school. However, what I can take from it is that our children may find this simple strategy about recognising their feelings helpful for maintaining positive mental health.

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I don't know how many times I've asked my eldest son questions like "why are you behaving like this?", "what's going on in your thoughts just now?" and "what are you feeling?" and been told "I don't know", only for us to discover what's up once we've talked about our feelings, so I know it works, albeit with a little patience and persistence.

My reasons for championing talking about feelings just now is because I believe many of our children are experiencing poor mental health, anxiety and possibly even a little depression.

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I really fear for how many of them will be coping just now, it's just heartbreaking. How awful that I'm even typing these words but it's not just me thinking or becoming aware of this, I see many parents talking about their concerns for their kids’ mental health, I hear many parents saying their kids are more anxious and down in the dumps than ever before and I think we need to act now.

Our kids are robust little creatures sucking up any information they can but they're also learning life habits and if those habits don't serve them well, then surely it's our job as adults to assist them.

So how do we do it? How do we start to repair the lockdown damage done to our children's mental health? How do we rescue their resolve and how do we make sure that we're showing them how to cope?

I can only speak from personal experience and pass on advice I've been given from a few wonderful therapists and that's to talk it out, rationalise these feelings and explain to our children that they're experiencing a perfectly normal reaction to this situation that we're all faced with.

Most people being locked up for 12 months would struggle to lift their chin off the ground so I'm trying not to be too hard on our kids.

For the young ones who have just gone back to school and nursery, let's be gentle with them and nurture their needs. Let’s help them express their feelings in a safe environment and acknowledge that this has been a very difficult time for them, they miss their friends, their routine and their lives pre-pandemic.

So let's make sure that when those wee ones all go back to school after Easter (fingers crossed) that they're strong, feeling good and reassured that we have their backs. Let's help them talk about their feelings, work through a challenging period for their mental health and just be kids again.

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