Just like physical health, we all have mental health - but our mental health is just not as immediately obvious to others; in the way that a bad cold or a broken arm is! Mental health is essentially all about our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. Making sure your tweens (and you!) are in good mental health is really important as if affects how they behave, how they feel, how they interact with others and the decisions they take.
With a whole heap of hormones beginning to flood the bodies of 8-12 year olds it can often become harder during this time (and throughout puberty) to regulate emotions and moods. This doesn’t necessarily mean your 10 year old is having mental health issues, it’s statistically far more likely they’re just having a bad day. But it’s worth knowing some things to look out for in case the odd bad day turns into more of a frequent pattern.
The brilliant children’s charity, Action for Children, has compiled a few simple things to look out for that, using the easy to remember acronym M-A-S-K:
M – MOOD
They get irritable, argumentative or aggressive towards you. They may blame you if things go wrong. They can also become withdrawn.
A – ACTIONS
They may experience changes in eating and sleeping patterns. Look out for any signs of bullying or self-harm.
S - SOCIAL
They suddenly appear especially bored, lonely or withdrawn or they start to get into trouble. Losing interest in friends and other things they liked to do or missing school are common warning signs.
K - KEEP TALKING
Refusing or being reluctant to talk about how they’re feeling is common. But keep listening and ask how they are feeling. When they do open up, make sure they know there’s someone there who really cares.
Of all of these it is the last one - keep talking - that is the probably the most important thing you can do with your tween. Even if they might only give away crumbs of information or insight into their frame of mind, it will help you understand more of what it going on, and it will let them know that you are there to listen, whether it’s a big, small or seeming irrelevant things they’re sharing.
If you do feel that there are bigger more concerning issues around your tween’s mental health that you need support on, there are many great resources that can provide information, advice, and connect you to the right experts and specialists if necessary.
We’ve collated some of them below, but would love to know if there are others we should be including here;
Action for Children protects and supports children and young people, providing practical and emotional care and support.
Mental Health Foundation is one of the UK’s leading charities for everyone’s mental health. Their aim is to find and address the sources of mental health problems so that people and communities can thrive.
Mind is one of the largest and longest running mental health charities providing advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem.
The Children's Society is a national charity that works with the most vulnerable children and young people to make sure they have the mental health support they need
NHS directory of mental health support services