This week Alicia Drummond came to Lambrook to work with both pupils and parents, giving practical tips on understanding and managing emotions and promoting positive mental health, well-being and resilience in our children
Alicia spoke about ‘You as you, being enough’, not measuring a child’s worth by what they do or don’t do, but rather celebrating the child for who they are, which will in turn, build their confidence and promote better mental health.
We took the opportunity to ask Alicia some questions:
How did you start to specialise in mental health for children and teenagers?
I decided to have a change of career after being an event organiser for several years. I was looking around at different careers and ended up having some therapy myself. It was immensely helpful and as a result, I then went and trained as a therapist! When I finished the training, the Deputy Head at the school where my children went to, asked me to come into the school to teach the children some communication and listening skills. I’ve always like working with teenagers so I jumped at the opportunity and it grew from there, and then developed into parent training as well.
Why is good mental health important?
Because if your mental health isn’t OK, everything else is going to be a struggle. Children who don’t have good mental health are going to struggle to learn, they will struggle to make good relationships and it can also affect their physical health. We are very complex beings and it is important to look at children as a whole; having more of a holistic approach, the idea that mental health ties in with everything else.
What are the biggest struggles that our children face today?
Lots of different struggles! I think the top ones are:
- A pressure to perform
- Social media, particularly for the girls, there is definitely a ‘compare and despair’ culture that comes up with social media.
- General anxiety – we live in a very uncertain world and children are exposed to 24/7 news and unrest. They can see this in the wider world but also in the lives of other children and adults that they know.
- Sleep and the fact that some of our children not getting enough of it which has a huge impact on mental health.
What can parents do at home to best support their children?
We are all too over-involved and too busy, too much of the time. Children need us to take the pressure off, to allow them to do less and let them discover their passions. Prioritising sleep for our children is also vitally important.
We need to help them to think about the journey and the process rather than just the outcome; just encouraging them to be a little bit further forward than they were yesterday and not putting them under too much pressure.
And following on from that, how can we ensure that our communication with our children is effective?
The big tip from me, would be to listen more than you speak. You have got to stay in communication and that means every day making sure that you put a little bit of time aside just to be there. You won’t always have fantastic conversations and deep and meaningful chats, but it is just talking about the every day stuff, because if you do that, then children are more than likely going to talk to you when something isn’t quite right or isn’t going according to plan.
How should we be encouraging resilience in our children?
Resilience is a collection of things that we do, so to become resilient, we must look after ourselves physically and emotionally, as well as exposing ourselves to new challenges. It’s when we overcome those challenges that we develop resilience.
It is important that we don’t rescue our children from failing and to let them to get the odd thing wrong. We must allow them to take more control in more areas – asking the question ‘what am I doing for my child, that they could be doing themselves’? The more children take on, the more confident they are going to feel in their competence, as they develop their independence and ultimately, resilience.
How independent should a child be when they move on to senior school?
I have a list of things that children should be able to do by aged 13 which includes: using public transport, cleaning a bathroom, planning and cooking a meal, changing a light bulb. They seem like little things, but they all add up to a bigger whole. If children can do these small things then they will be able to negotiate the bigger challenges of senior school and perhaps those things that they may feel anxious about – perhaps being away from home for the first time, finding their way around a big campus etc.
It is important for children to take risks, and also to manage these risks. There are different ways and activities that can help with this, from horse riding to studying philosophy – things that push our children outside of their comfort zones.
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