Wellbeing strategies for children and teens

8min read

Here we share some wellbeing strategies for children and teenagers that we can also adopt ourselves as parents.

Key Points:

  • Keep communication open with your child and talk to them about what they are seeing online
  • Encourage them to write out their thoughts and feelings in a journal
  • Encourage healthy eating, getting active and sleep routines

Why is it important to look after our mental wellbeing?

At any age, positive wellbeing enables us to:

  • Have more confidence and a healthy belief in ourselves
  • Strengthen our self-esteem
  • Have positive and more fulfilling relationships with others
  • Cope with anxiety and other challenges that we may face 
  • Adapt to change in a constructive way

This doesn’t mean we will only ever be happy, as life will always give us some challenges, but it enables us to cope with challenges in life  in a practical and productive way.

It’s good to talk

Let your children know you are there for them when they want to talk to you about how they are feeling. It may be a big decision for them to open up about their worries and anxieties so ensure you give them the space, time and attention. If you are in the middle of something and you can’t stop what you are doing there and then, let your child know a time later that day when you are able to give them your full attention.

Encourage writing things down

Older children and teenagers may prefer to have a journal or notebook they can write in. Maybe they can set aside some time when they get home from school to write their thoughts down. This should remain private to them unless they choose to discuss it with you.

Encourage your child to reflect on what they would say to a friend who is struggling with something similar, as this provides the opportunity to practise more positive self-talk. Younger children may prefer to draw their feelings in their  journal. Encourage them to express themselves however they feel on that day.

Create a worry box

If anxious thoughts continue to overwhelm your child, they may wish to create a worry box. When your child is feeling calm, you can either work on a project together or they can do it themselves. 
Get your child to write about or draw their worries and "post" them into the box whenever they are feeling anxious or worried. Then you can sort through the box together and tear up any worries that are no longer there.

Let them know this feeling will pass

We all go through life experiencing a wide range of emotions. These emotions, such as happiness or sadness can come and go. Some emotions may feel stronger than others. Remind your child that our feelings can constantly change, and this too will pass.

Create a self-soothing box

Your child might enjoy a self-soothe box, which they can fill with things that help them when they feel anxious or overwhelmed. This self soothe box may contain things like their favourite books, as well as photos of loved ones and happy places. Perhaps they can include a stress ball or a fidget toy for when they have an anxious moment. Encourage them to collect happy mementos from family holidays or days out. This may be a postcard or a stone from the beach.

Practise gratitude together

Each night before your child goes to sleep, discuss the three best things that happened that day for both of you, and why you are grateful. There is always something to be grateful for, even if it is as simple as enjoying their lunch, or feeling the warmth of the sun on their face.

Meditation and mindfulness

Meditation and mindfulness can be practised at any age and gives us the opportunity to slow down and check in with how we are really feeling. Meditation involves paying attention and grounding ourselves to what is going on in the current moment. When we feel anxious or stressed, our breathing becomes shallow, and our heartrate quickens. We can reverse this feeling by slowing down our breathing. 
Mindfulness is an awareness of our thoughts and feelings as they happen moment to moment, without judging them. When we encourage children to be mindful, it can help them develop skills to deal with the stress of school, studying and life in general.

Spend time together in nature

Nature can be a great boost for our mental wellbeing and helps us feel grounded. Spending time together in parks, forests or near water has lots of positive benefits. Listening to the birds or the wind in the trees has a very calming effect on us and helps us focus on the present moment instead of worrying about something in the future that has not yet happened. It is also a great opportunity to encourage your child to open up about their feelings.

Get creative or learn something new

Creativity gives us an avenue to express ourselves, helps boost confidence and releases stress and tension from our bodies. When we are learning something new, something that excites us, we can have a feeling of pride. As we learn, we can boost our sense of achievement and belief in ourselves. It can be something simple like learning how to bake a new cake or take better photos, or more challenging such as learning a new hobby or language. 

What we eat can also impact on our wellbeing

As well as affecting our physical health, what we eat can also impact our mental wellbeing. Encouraging healthier eating in your family may help everyone to have more energy, think more clearly and improve mood. Try and encourage your child to avoid too many sweets and biscuits as sugary food causes our blood sugar to rise and crash dramatically. Increasing fruit and veg will help as they contain essential vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fibre. Raw veg such as carrots make for great snacks. It is also important to drink plenty of water as this increases our concentration. 

Getting active

Introduce fun exercise as a regular part of your family routine. Young children have a lot of energy and exercise can include running around at the park, playing catch or kicking a ball. Offer them lots of praise to encourage them to keep moving. Encourage young children to get moving with a game of Simon Says, where they have to copy your moves and then make up their own. If you don’t have the outdoor space, then play some favourite tunes and get dancing together indoors. 
If you are struggling to find the time to exercise with your children, try leaving the car at home and encourage them to walk to school or the shops with you. This is also a great time to encourage conversations and find out what is really happening in your child’s world.

Sleep

Sleep is an essential process that helps our bodies and minds to repair, restore and function effectively. Sleep is vital for maintaining good wellbeing. We are often advised we should be aiming for 7 - 8 hours of sleep each night, but for teenagers, the recommended amount of sleep could be as high as 10 hours per night. Teenagers often have trouble falling asleep at a sensible bedtime because their brains naturally work on later schedules. Ensure their room is dark, cool and quiet, and try and avoid any electronic devices. 

Further resources

If you would like further support and advice, call our helpline on 0808 800 2222 or email us at askus@familylives.org.uk. You can talk to us online via our live chat service, which is open, Monday to Friday between 10.30am and 9pm. You may find it helps to find out how other parents and carers have coped with this on our online forums. We also have a range of free online parenting courses that can help through the ages and stages of parenting. 

Other organisations that can help

Your child may find it helpful to visit the Childline website or Young Minds

Give us a Shout provides support to young people if they are struggling with their mental health 24/7 via a text service. 

​Visit the NHS website

Visit the Mind website

Better Your Life support teens and adults with anxiety

This article was written by Jennifer Roblin, an anxiety relief therapist and confidence coach at Better Your Life.

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