Nathan Wallis - How to help kids manage anxiety and depression
How to help kids manage anxiety and depression
As a parent it can be daunting to help your child navigate the big emotions that come with mental health issues like anxiety and depression. Our resident parenting expert and neuroscience educator, Nathan Wallis, explains how to identify the warning signs of anxiety and depression in your children, and how to best support them while looking after yourself too.
What to look out for to support your child
While our children's moods can go through ebbs and flows, it's important to stay alert if your child is experiencing challenging emotions for long periods at a time. If they then couple this with regression where they're acting a couple of years younger than they are, that’s an indication that there might be something going on.
Talking it out makes a massive difference. We often say 80% of the problem is getting it out of their head. No matter how big or small their worries are, you don’t have to be their psychiatrist or try to fix it, just let them know that they are heard, and that you're there to support them.
Teaching your child strategies that tap into the parasympathetic nervous system - such as a quick walk after dinner, or listening to music and dancing together in the lounge - are simple yet effective ways to help manage these feelings.
There are also so many great free resources available to help you support your children’s mental health. The Mental Health Foundation New Zealand has loads of information and links to other great services - including counselling and therapy, practical tools and advice, and other free resources. Visit mentalhealth.org.nz
Self-care is important too
And just as importantly, make sure to look after yourself too. Carve out some me-time for whatever brings you joy, and don’t forget to be kind to yourself. That can be as simple as relaxing with a bath or doing some exercise. Research says that 20 minutes of exercise three times a week can increase the amount of endorphins in your brain that have a huge, positive impact on your mental health and wellbeing.
Remember that we’re our children’s biggest role models, so if they see us taking a moment to prioritise our own wellbeing, then they'll be more likely to do it too.
Nathan Wallis is a Neuroscience Educator, nib health insurance parenting expert and regular media commentator. He hosts sold-out learning events for parents up and down the country (and abroad), talking to different stages of child development – including the first 1000 days - and how parents can support their children in order to help achieve the best possible outcomes.