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Mental Health Awareness week – let’s join forces!


As many of you will be aware, this week is Children's Mental Week. as promoted by the national charity 'Place2Be"


All over the country, teachers, parents and youth workers, counsellors and coaches will be joining forces to learn and promote fun and meaningful ways for children and adolescents to take care of their mental health. Never has this been so important as during this extended period of isolation and challenges that have been faced during the year that has and continues to be COVID 19.

Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cambridge has been Patron Royal of Place2be since 2015 in her recent selfie video, stated so well:

“And while this is Children’s Mental Health Week there has never been a more important time to talk about parental wellbeing and mental health too.”


If we are to be able to be the best person we can be for those in our care, it is essential that as parents and teachers that we take care of ourselves and our personal wellbeing.


This year has been tough for all and I want to give a huge shout out to all the parents who are doing their best to juggle the maths (help!) and literacy, science (eek!) and languages (!), not to forget the sport :), while working, cooking, shopping, cleaning and managing anxieties, financial and wider family concerns!


We all have emotional needs and emotional capacity – different stresses have surfaced and become exacerbated by the isolation and removal of the support systems we relied on pre-COVID. As humans we are not programmed to deal with trauma alone and certainly not over an extended period of time; we need connection, rest and recuperation on a regular basis.


On a positive note, families have also identified many positives that have arisen from spending extended periods of time home together. More time, more play, a greater understanding of needs. The enforced slowing down of life has caused many to consider the benefits of lockdown and "keepers" into the future.


There are positives of lockdown; amidst the emotional ups and downs of our children and ourselves has been an increased understanding of what is required in order to take care of our needs and those around us. There has been much talk of kindness, gratitude, exercise, healthy routines etc.


One of the many ways in which we can invest in our Mental Health is to think about what author and psychologist Dr Gary Chapman (author of the well known "Five Love Languages") calls our 'emotional tanks". In his book, Dr Chapman suggests that we all have something that looks like an ‘emotional love tank’ in which are stored the ways in which we feel loved. The way in which we keep that love tank full is by adding to it what he calls our “primary love languages”.


Having counselled and researched the emotional needs of many couples, Dr Chapman realised that the essential needs distilled down to 5 in particular. These are:


1. Quality time

2. Words of Affirmation

3. Receiving gifts

4. Physical Touch

5. Acts of service


The Five Love Languages can be applied to anyone, parent, single, student, child, adolescent and there are many ways to apply them practical. By applying the principles outlined, many emotional problems experienced by children and adults have been significantly improved if not eliminated.


One interesting discovery is that the way in which you receive love may not be the way in which your child or parent feels loved, so the first step has to be to identify both your own and those of your loved ones. I know only too well that for me to feel loved, quality time is my primary love language – how frustrating therefore, if my husband spends all his time doing jobs around the house and then doesn’t understand why I don’t feel loved! That’s not to say that I don’t appreciate the latter, but given the choice, undivided quality time goes a lot further!


How about our children ? – your 5 year old son may be someone who always needs a cuddle or hug – your physical presence to make him better, whereas another child may come alive when presented with a small gift that lets him or her know you have been thinking of them. Or it could be that you spend time noticing all that your child has done well, from smiling to managing to keep going with that Maths task or helping another sibling at home – words of affirmation are good for all of us, but for a child who receives love primarily through these, this can be a game changer for them and the rest of the family.


The good news is that by learning the love language of your spouse or your child, you only need to put small tweaks in place on a consistent basis. Quality time can be a deliberate 10 minutes a day listening to your child or loved one – being seen and heard especially in this time when so much has gone, is hugely important. Studies have shown that by applying the love languages consistently, many families have seen behavioural issues vanish and couples have found more resource within them to do life well together.

When we invest and deposit into our emotional tanks, we are able to draw on our reserves in challenging times. The secret is not to allow a tank to become depleted.


Next Steps

1. Do you know your love language?

2. Do you know your partner’s love language? Does your partner know yours?

3. Can you identify the love languages of your children? [all children need an element of all five in order to do well emotionally and mentally, but in order to flourish, a clear favourite should be emerging from the age of 7 years].


How do I discover the love language of another person?

1. Observation – notice the things that make that other person come alive – if you’re not sure, maybe try them out over a period of time.

2. Ask them how best they receive love or in the workplace – what fills their tank?

3. Go to www.fivelovelanguages.com and do the online survey which will give you your answer.

4. If you work in a team, have them do this and then discuss the results.


As a keen language learner I know that learning a foreign language can be time consuming and at times unnatural. In the same way, learning the love languages of those around you can also take time and practice. Any second language learning is going to be awkward and unnatural for a while, but with practice things become second nature until we are speaking more fluently and with greater ease.


Take time, practise and take heart - the end results are so worth it!


For coaching into the Five Love Languages or issues related to Wellbeing, please contact me on https://www.denisesfcoachingintolife.com/


Resources:

https://www.childrensmentalhealthweek.org.uk/about-the-week/

The Five Love languages – Dr Gary Chapman (there are books for all stages in life)




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