Supporting your children's mental health at home

This post was written by NLMT music therapist Priya Vithani



February 1st-5th 2021 marks Children’s Mental Health Week. The theme this year is “Express Yourself”. The COVID-19 pandemic has turned children’s lives upside down. They are unable to see their friends in school like they’re used too, and may be feeling additional pressures of remote learning which can be difficult from a home environment without much variety.


We’ve put together some resources that you can use to support your children’s mental wellbeing while also allowing them to express themselves.




Make your own instruments


Water xylophone

This is a really easy way to make music, it won’t take much of your time and it isn’t messy. All you need is a few glasses or mugs, a tap, and a little spoon.


  1. Choose how many glasses you want to use (we recommend 5 or 6) – the glasses don’t all have to be the same, you can experiment with different sounds (but plastic might not work so well)

  2. Fill them with water to different levels

  3. You can choose how to arrange them

  4. Tap with a spoon and hear the different sounds

Can you make up your own tune? Or play a song you know?


Tissue box Guitar

Don’t worry if you don’t have a tissue box, any cardboard box will do, you’ll just need to carefully cut a hole on one of the sides.


You will need:

  • Tissue box (or other)

  • Cardboard tube (e.g. from a kitchen roll, or wrapping paper)

  • Elastic bands

  1. Wrap 3 or 4 elastic bands around the box so they go over the hole

  2. Make small cuts on one end of the cardboard tube

  3. Flatten these out and stick to the top of your box

  4. Enjoy!


Tin shaker and scraper



You will need:

  • Some empty, clean tin cans

  • Uncooked rice/lentils

  • Balloons

  • Elastic bands

  • Chopsticks/sticks (optional)


  1. Begin by putting a small handful of rice or lentils into and empty tin can. Please make sure the tin can has smooth edges (you can get tin openers that open tins without leaving a sharp edge – if you’re unsure, ask an adult for help)

  2. Cut the end off the balloon and stretch it over the open end of the tin

  3. Secure the balloon with an elastic band and you’ve got a new shaker. If you want to secure it even more, you can glue the edge of the balloon down.


5-minute calming and mindful activities for children

Ways to ensure children have a ‘release’ activity every day

  • Listen to music while working

  • Physical movement breaks between learning, as well as brain breaks

  • A daily 5-10 minute calming or mindful activity at the same time every day

  • Art: from freestyle doodling to outside projects

  • Singing together, stories, storytelling, journaling, poetry, drama

Calming senses

Explain how correct breathing helps us feel calm. Use your forefinger to trace in and out of the fingers on the other hand to regulate breathing. Model breathing in they trace slowly up their fingers, and out as they trace slowly down – trace your fingers from thumb to little finger on each hand, encouraging 10 slow, deep breaths in total. You could also do this with a pen/pencil on a piece of paper, breathing in and out respectively as you outline your hand.


Gratitude Practice

Encourage your child to use a notebook or a folder and paper to make a Gratitude Journal. Practice gratitude journaling at a regular time each day, perhaps first thing in the morning, after lunch, or just before the end of the day. Take 5 minutes to think of something that you feel grateful for today. Here are some topics or ideas you can use to guide your students:

  • Something that someone else did for you that day

  • A person in your life that you appreciate

  • An activity or hobby you are grateful to be able to do

  • A positive quality of someone that can sometimes be difficult to get along with

  • A skill or ability you have

  • A part of your body you are grateful for and why

  • An item that you love

  • Something that made you laugh

Feel free to include anything extra, or exclude anything listed.


Heartbeat

Our heartbeat is an amazing representation of our emotions. Like our breath, it is always with us. So, we can use our heartbeat to connect with the present moment in times of difficulty or stress.

  • You might like to begin this practice with three deep breaths

  • Ask your child to place their fingers or hands over the part of their body where they can best feel their pulse.

  • on the side of their neck, under their jaw

  • inside their wrist

  • over their heart

  • Ask them to close their eyes and notice how quickly or slowly their heart is beating

  • Encourage them to think about their current state of emotion and consider if this might be connected to how quickly or slowly their heart is beating.

  • Direct them to stand and jump up and down on the spot ten times.

  • Then return to sitting and feel their heartbeat again, noticing any changes.

  • Your child may like to close their eyes and focus on their heartbeat until it slows back down.


Glitter bottle

Use this familiar sensory bottle concept as a means to demonstrate how mindfulness can help to calm us when we are feeling stressed, anxious, sad or angry.

Preparation

  • Fill a bottle or jar with water, leaving 2-3 cm of space at the top.

  • Add a generous amount of glitter glue to the bottle (or a combination of PVC glue and regular glitter).

  • Seal the bottle well!

Directions

Shake the bottle well to mix the glitter, water and glue.

Example of a script to recite as you do this:

“Imagine that the glitter is like your thoughts when you’re feeling stressed, mad or upset. See how it whirls around and makes it more difficult to see clearly? That’s why it’s so easy to make silly decisions when you’re upset, because it’s harder to think clearly. Don’t worry, this is normal and it happens to all of us (yes, adults too).

[Now put the jar down in front of them.]

Now watch what happens when you’re still for a couple of moments. Keep watching. See how the glitter starts to settle and the water clears? Your mind works in a similar way. When you’re calm for a little while, your thoughts start to settle and you start to see things much clearer.”

Music Therapy

North London Music Therapy provide music therapy services for children. Music therapy could offer your child a trusted space to express themselves with a fully-qualified practitioner. If you think your child would benefit from music therapy, make a referral via our website.


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