Children’s Mental Health Week 2022 kicks off today and the theme is growing together. Growing Together is about growing emotionally and finding ways to support and help each other grow. I did a little dance in a high energy state the other week and started shouting ‘Mistakes are awesome, we need to celebrate mistakes’. I was doing this to get the kids attention in the hope that they would remember the words I was saying. My 7 year old looked at me like I was mad and had a little laugh. He replied:
‘Mum, why would you want to celebrate your mistakes, that is stupid?’
I reminded him that mistakes are a normal part of life and he should never be afraid to make them. We spoke about his current passion for computer games and I showed him my favourite game as a kid, Sonic on the good old Sega Mega Drive. I explained that if I didn’t make mistakes on each round, I would never learn and get past them. I also told him that the game wouldn’t be as much fun if it was too easy. I told him not to fear making mistakes because we all do.
I think with all issues in life, if we fail to normalise them then we promote feelings such as shame. The feeling of shame is one of the lowest on the emotional scale and it has a huge impact on our state and how we show up. As I said on my tedx talk back in 2020, shame is so bad for our mental health and shame prolongs recovery. We need each other to work through feelings of shame because if we don’t talk about these feelings and work through them, they build. Talking helps our feelings to become lighter. It’s important that we let our kids know that we are growing up too. We are always growing. It’s healthy to be open with our kids, always reminding them that mistakes and hard times we go through can help us to grow and adapt. Trying new things can help us to move beyond our comfort zone into a new realm of possibility and potential. However, emotional growth is often a gradual process that happens over time, and sometimes it can be hard. That is ok, we might just need a bit more time. Here are a few of my tips when it comes to growing with our kids:
Some of the best chats I have with the kids is in the car or out walking. It can be a great space to talk and sometimes removing the pressure of constant eye contact can help.
Say sorry for the small things. The act of acknowledging when we slip up helps them to see that we can move on and forgive each other.
Talk about lessons openly, remove the stigma. Share tough times in an age appropriate way and share stories of how you have moved on from them.
Be open to learning from kids because they can teach us so much and older isn’t always wiser.
Laugh about mistakes too when ready to do so because we are here to have fun and not take ourselves too seriously.
Discuss ways we can use our lessons in a creative way and channel any negative feelings into something positive.
Turn up the music and shake it off.
Articulate the different feelings such as ‘I am feeling angry, sad, a bit frustrated, scared’.
Encourage and talk about ways to live in the moment such as going for a walk screen free or enjoying a film or meal together.
Journals and diaries are brilliant for all ages and help us to offload.
Practise self care so the kids know how important it is. Our actions show more than our words. I can talk about self care all day to the kids until I am blue in the face. They need to see me live it though.
Hug often and tightly.
Praise effort as well as praising mistakes and lessons.
Talk about boundaries and how we can set them.
Nature always has the answers. There are no trolls in nature and we never regret a good walk. Being in nature allows our problems to shrink and we return with a fresh perspective. Nature is great for clarity. Make time for it every day. If you are isolating then stick your head out the window or walk in your garden. Just do what you can.
Remind yourself and your kids that it is not your fault you have a mind that is prone to judgement to keep yourself safe. Practise self compassion each and every day. You got this!
Jojo Fraser is an award-winning mental health researcher, author, podcaster and keynote speaker, dubbed as ‘the Queen of positivity and a kindness advocate. She is a Tedx speaker and a regular contributor on BBC radio. Jojo is known for normalising discussions around our mental and spiritual health, making it accessible and relatable to all. She has quickly grown a reputation for having a huge impact even on the most sceptical of people.