By Ibrar A. Razaq
Ibrar. A. Razaq is a Marketing graduate from the University of Huddersfield and is currently working alongside the My Foster Family team as a digital marketer and researcher. Prior to his involvement with the company, his passion for Marketing and children had always remained prevalent. Being at the right place at the right time licensed him to continue pursuing his holy grail.
Mental health is defined as ‘the state of health of somebody’s mind’.
According to a survey conducted by the UK government in 2019, results show that 12.5% of 5 to 19 year olds had at least one mental health disorder and a further 5% met the criteria for 2 or more mental health issues. Similarly, children who grow up in foster care are more at risk of encountering poor mental health as most of these children have experienced one or more forms of maltreatment. However, there are several ways to address the issue effectively to prevent it from affecting their adulthood and increasing their need for long term support from mental health services, these will be explained further on.
The importance of managing the mental health of looked after children is to provide them with an equal opportunity to those who are not within the foster care system. Secondly, depending on the circumstances, many children will live-through a period of confusion as they stumble upon feelings of rejection, anger and abandonment. Taking into consideration the psychological repercussions that are subjected to take place, local authorities and foster carers must prioritise children’s mental well-being. Likewise, establishing a safe and open environment for a child is always a great starting point. The reason for this is to ensure the child has a sense of security and the basic fundamentals needed to survive (food, shelter, support).
Below are a few ways to help build resilience for children with mental health struggles:
Create a strong emotional connection
Attempt to put away any technology that may be a distraction to you and give your full attention to your child. Understand and respect your child’s feelings by listening and believing them, this will grant them permission to become more open with you. Encourage them to talk to you about matters that seem to be bothering them and offer them support and guidance.
Create coping mechanisms’
This may differ depending on your child, however, a common skill that may be useful is deep breathing exercises. This will help your child to calm themselves during any moments of anxiety, stress or frustration that may be intense for them to handle. Other coping mechanisms may include hobbies such as outdoor exercise and drawing/painting that may assist as a distraction.
When opportunity arises for you to teach your child how to embrace mistakes it can help open the mind of your child who may not have previously understood how to learn from mistakes. Giving your child the necessary time needed to understand how to approach situations in life from another point of view can be helpful to their growth and development.
Create opportunities for self-discovery
For many children who are fostered, they may have lost their self-esteem and confidence. This will usually directly impact their identity. However, as you and your child both learn new things about each other, it is your responsibility to (re)teach your child about themselves. For example, you can guide your child to take ownership of their learning at school and develop interests.