Five ways to boost your family's wellbeing

Promoting mental health and wellbeing for our families at home doesn’t need to be hugely complicated, says Dr Michelle O'Driscoll
Five ways to boost your family's wellbeing

MID-TERM can be a lovely week of slowing down and enjoying one another’s company, or a week of frayed nerves, pent up energy and boredom. Most probably, the majority of households testify to a mix of both experiences.

What the break in routine definitely does is create an opportunity to reflect on the treadmill we have been on in 2022 to date, and indeed over the past two years. We know that our young people are still processing the pandemic, and adjusting to the different stages of it.

Promoting mental health and wellbeing for our families at home doesn’t need to be hugely complicated, and like so many other health-related topics it comes back to basics.

The concept of the ‘Five Ways to Wellbeing’, which was compiled based on a large review of the research literature in the field of positive psychology, was created by categorising the most commonly identified methods to boost wellbeing.

The result has been five key headings which can be used as a mental checklist during your time with your kids this midterm, to bolster their wellbeing experience, without placing undue pressure for the week to be perfect and harmonious from start to finish! Here are the five main ways we can support mental wellbeing for our children.

Learn: One would think that being off school for a week would make mid-term a no-learning zone, but some of the most beneficial learning happens at home, or at least outside of structured rigid environments. 

This time off might be a chance to bake a new recipe, paint or draw, try a new board game, visit somewhere new, or just generally explore their surroundings in a different way. Go with the flow and see how they would like to spend some of their extra time.

Take Notice: Distraction is what we crave more and more these days, through our phones and laptops, IPads and Nintendos. This serves to keep us away mentally from pain, anger, sadness and any of the other tough emotions that we would rather not face. For children, this reduces their ability to recognise and name emotions, to be OK with experiencing them, and to build their social and emotional intelligence. Encouraging opportunities to discuss these experiences is important. 

While screen time certainly has a place in the mid-term schedule, try to pepper it with opportunities to be more present to what’s going on around them, and how they’re feeling. Being bored isn’t always a bad thing!

Be Active: Daily moderate to vigorous physical activity is proven to be very important for our children’s wellbeing. Getting out in fresh air is an added bonus to this. It can be playing chase, riding a bike, going for a family walk, or building an obstacle course. The saying “there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing” rings true at this time of year. Get wrapped up, enjoy the blustery days, and look forward to getting home and warmed up again afterwards.

Connect: It’s so easy to get stuck in the rut of breakfast, school, homework, dinner, sleep, repeat. The pandemic has further conditioned this sense of routine and safety in the known and familiar. Relational connection can be missing from this formula however!

Mid-term is a chance to break that mould and connect with others that you may not otherwise have a chance to reach out to regularly.

Arrange meetings with grandparents, cousins, or other friends from school. Make cards for people that you may not get to meet this week, but miss.

Connecting together as a family outside of the typical daily structure is also very beneficial.

Give: Giving is often more pleasant than receiving, and children love to feel like they are contributing. Can they give to family, to friends, or to community this week? It could be kind words, a physical gift or simply the gift of time and support to somebody that needs it. Not only are they increasing the wellbeing of others, but improving their own levels of endorphins and feel-good hormones also.

Or just survive! On paper, the ‘Five Ways to Wellbeing’ sounds like the perfect approach to mid-term activities, but it may not be your reality, and that’s absolutely fine. If over the course of this week you manage one or two of those suggestions, you’re doing well.

And if the result of this week is that you manage to get through the lack of school and routine with your sanity intact… that is also major win!

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