Children’s Mental Health

A few months ago Ra-Ra’s school sent home a little story for us to read to help reinforce what they had been learning about positive mental health in children. It is called “Unique the Unicorn”; they wanted us to read it as a bedtime story and ask her what she thought made each family member special. I have included the story in case you wondered what it was.

Unique was a unicorn with a rainbow mane, 
An unusual creature, with an unusual name.
A bright, flowing tail and a golden horn,
Set this animal apart from the norm.

But it wasn't just looks that set Unique apart,
This unicorn was different right from the start.
From a very young age, as a unicorn foal,
Unique had a very unusual goal.

You see, Unique was obsessed with the stars,
And Jupiter, Saturn, the Sun and Mars,
And black holes and comets and Mercury too,
And the curious craters she saw on the moon.

Learning about space made Unique feel good.
While the other creatures were eating their food,
Unique would be star-gazing, searching the night,
For unusual objects and star so bright.

Unique had a dream - to go into space,
The very first one from the unicorn race.
With lots of effort and determination,
Unique could be heading towards the space station!

The other animals all thought this quite odd,
An astronaut just isn't a unicorn's job!
But Unique was special and thought it no bother
To do something different from all of the others.

It's fine to be different - no matter what you do,
Stand out from the crowd and just be you.
It would simply be boring if we were all the same,
No dreams, or goals and no rainbow mane!

So Unique worked hard, studied every day,
Read about asteroids and the Milky Way.
If anyone called them an unkind word,
Unique just pretended not to have heard.

Then one day, years later, yes - you guessed it -
Unique reached for the rocket button and pressed it.
The journey into space had truly begun -
Who knew being different could be so much fun?

All creatures are different, they like different things,
Some creatures have spikes, while others have wings,
It's the same with people - so stand out from the crowd,
Be like Unique - be yourself and be proud!

Personally I thought the story/poem sucked but I’m also not 5 however Ra-Ra loved it but she is obsessed with unicorns. This to me really let’s kids know that you can be what ever you want to be when you grow up and you shouldn’t let other people dampen your spirits, rather than reinforcing positive mental health.

I’ve had very low esteem and confidence since I can remember and I worry that I am not helping instil a positive base for her mental health because mine is so poor. I know that my lack of patience is something that I have to work on when it comes to letting her know that I really am proud of her rather than pointing out what she could have done differently; I just have to remember she is 5 and has the attention span of a gnat right now.

With my Body Dysmorphia Disorder my main concern was that she was going to learn my atrocious behaviour when it comes to food and how I view my body. Hence I went to the Drs the minute it escalated for myself; she has already come home and asked if she looked fat. FAT she is a bloody twig and no child or adult should ask if their body is anything less than perfect. This is something both 00Steve and I try to reinforce by trying not to judge others on their appearance especially when the kids are around.

00Steve and I always said we wouldn’t say our kids were naughty BUT that they were being naughty. It may seem like the same thing but the slight change of words seriously makes the whole difference. It changes the subject from the child to the behaviour – this means the child learns the behaviour becomes the negative rather than themselves. There is a theory that if a child is told they are naughty repeatedly they believe that is just them and they use it as an excuse.

Giving children lots of love and positive encouragement is never and I repeat never a bad thing. It doesn’t cause a child being spoilt, it creates a child that knows their worth and can take pride in their accomplishments. Never letting a child know the worth of a pound and not teaching good work ethic is what creates a spoilt child.

We are hearing more and more about younger children self harming or even committing suicide and it is clear that mental health doesn’t just affect everybody but also at any age. There was an article I read recently on Facebook that spoke about how anxiety can manifest in children which you can read here. You may remember how stressed out you felt at exam time because there was so much pressure on you to do well? Just imagine how much easier you would have remembered things if you didn’t have that added pressure; probably either better or at least you would have felt more comfortable sitting the exam. I fully believe that schools and some parents need to dial down the pressure especially since you can retake exams now.

Even though I didn’t think much of the story used by my daughter’s school I am incredibly impressed that they are covering positive mental health at such a young age – most of the kids at the time were 4 years old! Looking at our own backgrounds and knowing what are strengths and weaknesses are can be beneficial to our children as is working in partnership with the other parent or other family members. For instance patience (with kids) like I said isn’t my strong suit but it 00Steve it most definitely is. So we like to think we even out and work well as a team.

What things do you think would help children foster good mental health and healthy coping techniques as they grow older?

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