5 things Dads can do on Children’s Mental Health Week  

By Lauren Seager-Smith 

Children’s Mental Health Week is taking place on 7-13 February 2022. The theme is Growing Together with a focus on overcoming challenges and setbacks.  Place2Becordinate the week, and they have developed a wealth of free resources to support parents and carers to get involved.  

Developing a growth mindset. 

You may have heard about the advantages of having a ‘growth mindset’. Stanford professor Carol Dweck was fascinated by the difference a growth mindset can have on life outcomes.  She studied 330 children aged eleven or twelve and asked them questions to determine who had a growth mindset, and who had a fixed mindset. The children with a growth mindset didn’t blame themselves when they failed at a task.  They saw it as a challenge to overcome.  Whereas those with a fixed mindset limited their abilities and saw little point in trying.  If you have a fixed mindset, you believe your abilities are fixed and you can’t change the outcome. In her book, ‘Mindset’ Dweck shares how important it is to praise our children’s efforts rather than getting fixated on results. When we praise our children’s efforts, they understand that they have agency and that there is always room to grow.  So how can Dads grow together with their child this Children’s Mental Health Week? 

1. Forgive yourself

We’re all juggling a million and one things every day. Being a Dad, a partner, a friend, a son, a colleague, an employee, an employer. It’s tough and it’s okay not to be okay.  It’s okay to drop the ball. Help your child understand that we all make mistakes and that’s okay. Your child doesn’t need you to be perfect, and you understand that they aren’t perfect. Show them that it’s okay to make mistakes as long as we own them and move forward. In the words of Stephen Gerrard, ‘Failure helps you to become better.  Analyse, reflect, work out how and why – and go again.’. 

2. What do plants need to grow?

What do plants need to grow? Air, water, light, sustenance. The same goes for people. We can’t run on empty. We need the right conditions to meet our full potential. Help your child develop healthy habits for life that set them up for growth. Model a balance of work, rest and play in your family life. See  5 ways to look after your mental health as a busy dad (musicfootballfatherhood.com).  

3. Help your child reflect on their journey

There is so much they have already overcome.   Ability is not limited to good grades or making the team. Life throws up different challenges, and we need a range of life skills and different types of intelligence. You could draw a timeline together and share the challenges you have both overcome and what has helped. With younger children you could encourage them to be their own superhero, designing a cape or a shield with all their powers and strengths. Help them think about who they are, to write down or draw those qualities and stick them up as daily reminders. For example, ‘I am kind’, ‘I am brave’, ‘I think of others’, ‘I’m not afraid to try new things’, ‘I never give up’.  

4. Plan out how you’ll overcome obstacles – together

In ‘High Performance – Lessons from The Best on Becoming Your Best’ by Jake Humphrey and Prof Damian Hughes, they talk about the power of the word ‘yet’.  They suggest whenever you find yourself thinking a problem is insurmountable, ‘try adding the word ‘yet’. For instance, I can’t do this Maths problem ‘yet’. I can’t run a 5K ‘yet’.  I can’t get that job I want ‘yet’. Nothing is fixed. There is always more to learn, more to experience, and room to grow. Michael Jordan famously said, ‘I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.’  

5. Have a plan to get unstuck

We all have days when we feel like everything has gone wrong.  Come up with an ‘It’s going to be okay’ plan with your child, or as a family. You could even make an emergency box, with lots of reminders. Include things or activities that make you feel better. It could be the recipe for a favourite meal you like to make together, a playlist of songs that pick you up, positive affirmations and quotes and post-it notes of things you’re proud of. It might be films or tv series that make you feel good, a book that makes you hopeful, or a place you like to go to clear your head.   

For more information on Children’s Mental Health Week visit Children’s Mental Health Week (childrensmentalhealthweek.org.uk)

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