I have very recently touched on the emotional and mental well-being of our daughter in the post ‘Supporting Learning at home‘ and how we as her parents see this element of our daughter’s upbringing as one of the core areas we need to be truly mindful of.
Our birdie is a sensitive soul and for the most part she is a sunny, kind, loving, naturally bubbly and incredibly curious; we can’t profess to always get it right as her parents however, it is our hope that her upbringing in the woods, as well as the open dialogue we have as a family that will always be a source of comfort to her, as well as a healthy environment for her to open up and talk to us as and when she feels the need.
Even with what we think of as a supportive environment for her to grow in, we have faced struggles moving into the new school year with some particularly unsavoury behaviour of those she used to consider ‘friends’ and others excluding her from their play. We have supported her in the only way we know how, allowing her to talk about it, have a yell and a howl when she needs to, as well as allowing her the time she occasionally needs to take herself off on her own to explore her surroundings, craft or read a book.
The conversation with her school began a few weeks back now; resources we simply didn’t know about until we approached the school about our concerns (lack of any emotional and mental well-being support offered) have now been put into action in the hope that birdie will reach out to the relevant person when/if she needs to, as well as those around her being aware of some particular issues she has been facing since Reception year.
I feel proud of ourselves as parents for not only being able to spot an issue stirring early in our daughter, but also that we weren’t too proud to ask the school for help in addressing her emotional and mental well-being with them.
Perhaps this is due to my own history with mental health; seeing our daughter’s struggles, I simply didn’t want certain thought processes and/or unhealthy coping mechanisms to get so ingrained that she wouldn’t know how to help herself when she was out in the world without our support.
From a young age I was aware of serious mental health issues when at the age of 11 my older sister was in the grips of Anorexia Nervosa. Me and my twin sister had incredible support at home, however, looking back, I often think about how little help and support there was outside of the family environment for us, the siblings who were ourselves were going through a deeply upsetting period of our young lives.
At school our sister’s illness was the ‘elephant in the room’ with teachers and as 11 year olds we simply adopted the “everything’s fine” facade in the school environment, and for each full school day we had no one to talk to about the emotional and mental impact of what we were going through; the support and resources were seemingly non-existant at school.
So when witnessing our daughter struggling with her daily anxiety attacks through the early weeks of Year One, concerned about what to do and how to help I went online and looked for help and resources for parents to deal with things early in the hope that we could potentially prevent any severe issues further down the line and help arm her with the emotional ‘tools’ required to deal with any futures upsets.
It wasn’t long before I discovered YoungMinds… (please note, that this is NOT a sponsored post)
YoungMinds is a UK charity that champion children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing. With years of experience under their belt, and with their campaigning and research in this particular field, they are able to provide expert knowledge to professionals, parents and young people through their parents helpline, online resources, training and development, projects with young people and work in schools.
I spent some time on their website looking for advice of how to support our 5 year old; I knew that this would be an organisation that the school would be aware of, but reading stories on the YoungMinds website and as a result learning that our daughter’s anxieties were perfectly “normal” gave us the additional reassurance that our little girl has a voice too.
YoungMinds main mission is to improve the emotional resilience of all children, and to ensure that those who suffer get fast and effective support, as well as building a society where mental health has no attached stigma.
On 10th October our daughter’s primary school is supporting World Mental Health Day and plan to fundraise for YoungMinds with a raffle, cake sale and ‘wear something yellow’ day. Our daughter however, asked us over the weekend if she could independently raise her own money to donate to the charity; something of course we fully supported!
Her idea was just so lovely; YoungMinds #HelloYellow is about showing young people that they are not alone with their mental health, so with all our sunflowers having gone to seed she spent a sunny Saturday afternoon harvesting the seeds and filling seed envelopes with plenty of seeds to be sold at our gate.
She set a price, made a sign and we set up an ‘honesty box’ at our gateway over the weekend; bearing in mind that we live in the middle of the woods, even on a sunny weekend like we had the day of her sale, footfall isn’t huge past our gate, but she did raise £20 which she has now donated to YoungMinds via her school collection.
We couldn’t be prouder of our daughter who is not only showing steady improvements in dealing with certain situations at school, but also in coming up with such a lovely fundraising idea that was so in-keeping with YoungMinds brand! Since I started writing this post, she has been awarded ‘Star of the week’ in her class for her fundraising idea and donation, as well as looking after and reassuring a new girl during her first week at school. As her parents it has been so wonderful to see her idea and kind nature acknowledged, after all, it is so often these ‘small’ acts of kindness that make the biggest difference.
Please note: This is not a ‘sponsored post’, this is a post sharing my own experience of #FightingFor my younger self and my daughter’s emotional and mental well-being in the run up to World Mental Health Day and on YoungMinds 25th Anniversary.