As parents, to prepare our children for adulthood, we discuss many health and safety concerns with them.
From their very early years we are discussing safety: hold my hand, don’t run with scissors, wash your hands before eating and after going to the bathroom, look both ways before crossing the street, don’t run in parking lots. We get them vaccinated to protect them from diseases; we monitor them closely and respond. We talk a lot about health as they mature.
We have helmets for everything, cycling, wakeboarding, skiing, hockey to prevent head injuries. We get special equipment for numerous sports and as they get older we talk more about road safety whether that is walking tall and determined on sidewalks, taking lit pathways, using bike lanes and paths. Then there is car safety — follow the rules!
We teach them about nutrition and the importance of healthy foods going into our bodies to provide the high octane fuel they need to do all the amazing activities a young person will ask of them.
We care for them when they are ill and teach them to be aware of cuts, scratches, bites and paying attention to those, ways to care for headaches, tummy aches and caring for their teeth and eyes. We want them to use their brains and develop intellectually through a variety of activities. Pay attention to falls, sprains and injuries and do not cliff jump at Kal Lake.
We talked about sex education, healthy relationships, being respectful, accepting, kind, being a good citizen. We teach about their emotions and that all are natural and how to manage, we teach them to communicate their needs in a respectful way.
These messages will be repeated over and over taken in, swirled about and hopefully become ingrained into their way of being.
Are we discussing mental health and wellness with our kids and giving attention to this important area of our overall wellbeing?
From the FORCE website, “Each year, the Institute of Families for Child & Youth Mental Health dedicates its efforts on May 7, Child and Youth Mental Health Day, to help foster well-being and caring, connected, relationships between young people and caring adults. his year marks the 10-year anniversary of that commitment!
“Lots has been said about parents not connecting with their kids about their mental health, but we feel that besides saying this, it is important to give parents and other caring adults some tools to help with having the conversation with young people. So, this May 7 is about the conversations between children, youth and caring adults in their lives.” See more at: http://www.familysmart.ca/may-7th
“Caring, connected relationships are a big deal to young people and it impacts their mental health.
“Lots has been said about parents not connecting with their kids about their mental health, but we feel that besides saying this, it is important to give parents and other caring adults some tools to help with having the conversation with young people. So, this May 7 is about the conversations between children, youth and caring adults in their lives.”
Here are some examples from their website:
If a youth says “I don’t know what’s wrong with me.” Don’t say “There’s nothing wrong with you.”
Say “What’s been going on for you lately? It’s OK not to be OK sometimes.”
If a youth says ”You have no idea what it is like for me to go to school every day.”
Don’t say “How hard can it be for you to go to school every day? Everybody has to go to school, I went to school. Grow up.”
Say “You are right I don’t know how hard it is and what happens there.”
These examples will keep the conversation going and through talking and connecting we can support our children and youth. Mental illness is often not discussed and people do not admit to the pain they are in. We want to change that and get them talking and families and community responding. We all benefit from education in this area.
In Vernon there is a local action team with the Child and Youth Mental Health and Substance Use Collaborative made up of physicians, health professionals, mental health clinicians, community agencies and school counsellors who are working on improving access and support to children and youth. Watch for local activities this week.
For online resources see www.keltymentalhealth.ca; www.doctorsofbc.ca or www.vernon.cmha.bc.ca The Crisis Line has a listing of all local resources on their website at www.peopleinneed.ca and CYMH-MCFD offices have drop-in clinic hours — call 250-549-5404 for details. Your family physician and school counsellor are also great supports.
The theme for May 7 is “I care about you.” So fitting.
Michele Blais has worked with children and families in the North Okanagan for the past 29 years. She is a longtime columnist with The Morning Star, appearing every other Sunday.