How To Support Your Childs Mental Health
The biggest thing you can do to support your child’s mental wellness is to be the observer. And when I say the observer what I mean is take the time to notice their moods, or how they are feeling.
Everyone, including you and your child will have up and down days. It is when those days are all down, where all you do is walk around looking at the ground, that you know something is off.
I had a week like that myself recently. I did literally walk around looking down all the time. I felt worthless and was really unhappy inside. I took what people said to heart. Nothing I did was right for them.
This is the sort of thing that happens when you feel down and don’t believe in yourself anymore. And it might be something really small; some small piece of feedback your child gets that tips the scales for them from happy to feeling down.
Shifting the Self-Talk
As adults we have the experience and knowledge to notice our inner self-talk and change it for the better. For children though it is different.
They might not know how to change their own self talk. So, you have the opportunity to support them to learn how to do that.
And believe it or not, mindset, or what the mind chatter is saying, is the key.
When the mind chatter is good and positive you will know. You’ll see it in how they approach getting ready for practice, practicing their skills in the back yard, being on the ice. Their whole outlook on life will be upbeat, fun, and happy.
As the observer then, you will likely notice when this isn’t the case; when you notice them less excited and happy, more quiet than usual.
Start a Conversation
That’s the time to have a conversation, a casual conversation and ask them how they are feeling.
Notice I used the word feeling here, because often we will ask “How’s your day?” The standard answer to that will most likely be “Okay.” And does that response tell you anything about their mindset and what they are thinking?
No, it doesn’t.
And this isn’t about prying or being overly interfering. What you do want to do is have your child realize that you are there for them when they do feel down, when their self-talk isn’t so great.
Listen to Their Response
A conversation starter could be “I notice you seem a bit down. I’ve felt like that the past couple of days too. What’s made you feel that way?” What you will notice with this sort of conversation opener is one of two things.
Firstly, they will open up and tell you how they are feeling, what’s going on for them, so you can support them to understand their feelings and talk through the self-talk, for example.
Or secondly, they will tell you they aren’t feeling that way at all. And that is just as great a response. Sometimes as a parent we might read things wrong. We think we see them feeling a certain way, unhappy for example, and all they are doing is thinking through something, like how to tackle a problem.
It's All About Connection
The best part about either conversation is that you are having a conversation. Your child will feel supported and more comfortable discussing their feelings or mind chatter with you.
And longer term that will lead to a happier, healthier child, whether they are playing hockey or not.
With regards to their hockey though, having these conversations and connection will impact positively on their ability to work through any emotional times that come up in the future. It will also assist them to begin to understand the connection between mindset and action, or perhaps more commonly ‘reaction.’
Karen Cherrett is a Sports Mindset Coach who specializes in coaching hockey players. Karen coaches, players to be more focused and play with ease, not stress. And their parents to support their child in the best possible way. Life playing hockey should be fun. Mindset matters. Mental health matters. Hockey should be fun, not emotionally overloading.