Have a conversation. One of the most straightforward ways to do this is to instigate family meal times. Bring everyone to gather around a table, even if some are reluctant. This gives everyone a chance to talk and to listen to each other, If you don’t think your family would talk easily then use a conversation starter game like ‘Would you rather’ or even a quiz. You can buy table ‘games’ online easily and at low cost. The aim is not necessarily to have a deep conversation, just to begin to chat.
Play a game together/do a jigsaw puzzle together. This encourages companionship without eye contact, which can be very comforting and lead to surprising conversations. Maybe steer away from Monopoly though.
Go outdoors as often as possible, it’s truly amazing what spending a bit of time in the sunshine can to do help soothe the soul. If either of you is adventurous and you live in a suitable location, you might suggest cold water or wild swimming! There’s a growing body of science which shows that it is tremendously beneficial for those suffering with depression or anxiety.
Signpost them to your local Children and Adolescent Mental Health Service online provision, spend a bit of time searching on local Facebook groups or on Google for your local CAMHS, in my area they are called i-Rock and are on Instagram posting regular Live sessions. The Young Minds website is also excellent, with good information for parents as well as young people.
Turn off the news, including not watching the 24/7 news channels, limit time on social media if possible and on news websites. In his book ‘Humankind’, Rutger Bregman likens the news a drug which leads to heightened anxiety, lower mood levels, learned helplessness, contempt and hostility towards others. Limiting you and your family’s exposure to it will help to ease anxiety and stress.
Look after yourself. The people around someone experiencing mental illness can find it difficult to look after themselves; it’s an anxious time when your loved ones are ill, especially when there isn’t a lot you can do to ‘make it better’. Ensuring that you are aware of how to improve your mood and taking positive steps to do this not only means you’ll be in a better frame of mind but it also models good practice to your child, they might even join you, though perhaps not if it’s having a bubble bath!
Finally, if you have any serious concerns about your child’s mental health do look at the Young Minds website for advice, you might also consult your GP or find a local support group. These are difficult times we live in and we all need a bit of support to get through.
Helplines for when things are very difficult:
Childline (for under 19s): 0800 111
Samaritans (for anyone to call at any time about anything): 116 123
Papyrus (for those at risk of suicide and those concerned about them): 0800 068 4141
Young Minds parents helpline: 0808 802 5544 Plus a crisis messenger service for young people on: 85258
Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM): 0900 585858
Premier Lifeline: 0300 111 0101