Last week was Children’s Mental Health Awareness week, a topic which is of course very close to my heart as a mum and as a health writer with a keen interest in the very topic. This week Amber and I have been reading The Stress Goblin’s Hat, a book aimed at 3-7 year-olds and co-authored by Dr. Rubina Mian, with more than 25 years of experience of experience researching and writing about stress, and her brother, Oman Mian, a former dentist. The book gives parents and caregivers the oppourtunity to open the discussion of mental health with kids
We tend to think of stress as a grown-up concern. Just like adults, children don’t like being pressured or loosing someone or something they love. But unlike adults children are not emotionally or mentally developed to cope with these situations. It is because children are so dependent on grown-ups it is not easy for them to escape from the situation.
A sobering thought is three in four mental illnesses start before a child reaches 18 years of age and more than half of young people are embarrassed to talk about mental illness. That’s why it is important to start discussions early. It is never to early to start to talk to children about their bodies, about what makes them happy and what makes them sad.
One of the easiest ways to do this is through fairy stories.
Traditional fairy stories teach us to be wary of strangers, avoid evil queens and don’t accept apples from strangers they may be poisoned. We love them. But isn’t it time we updated them to equip children for 21st Century Problems? I know that from a personal point of view being open about mental health can really help and we need to encourage kids to feel confident about opening up and tell them that it is ok to not always be ok. This is even more important when you look at the current statistics relating to mental health in young people.
- One in ten children in the U.K. now suffer from mental health problems including stress, anxiety and depression (Office of National Statistics)
- 1 million children in the U.K. between the ages of 5-15 suffer from stress (YoungMinds children’s mental health charity)
- Three-quarters of mental illnesses start in childhood with 50% of adult mental health problems starting before 15 years of age (Annual Report of the Chief Medical Officer)
- Just 6% of UK health research spending goes on mental health health and less than 30% of research is focused on young people (The Guardian)
- Stress in children can be far more serious than in adults as children have not yet learned the tools needed to cope and cannot escape stressful situations easily.
When talking about stress with Amber I always focus on the physical symptoms which I know she can relate to. I still remember her waking up on the first day of primary school and telling me how she had ‘butterflies’ in her tummy, and again before her school show. The Stress Goblin’s Hat discusses physical symptoms like the latter but also other common symptoms such sweaty palms and anger and addresses ways in which children can find distractions such as listening to music, having a cuddle and using scents. When I asked Amber what scent makes her feel more relaxed she immediately said lavender, and I was able to use other examples in the book which she could relate to, for example anger. Most kids when stressed will throw their toys, slam doors and their face will turn read. Amber said to me mummy, “Oh yeah, I do some of those things but next time I will listen to music and give mummy a cuddle.”
I also loved that the book encourages kids to recognise the symptoms of stress in others and encourages them to give their peers a big hug when they see them stressed. It also highlights the fact that kids can feel when others around them are stressed.
At the end of the book is a section entitled ‘For the Grown-Ups’ which covers the following topics.
- Why we wrote this book
- What is stress
- What’s wrong with too much stress
- Why do children develop stress
- Signa to look out for
- What kind of things to talk about
- Using storytelling and stress characters to help
One idea which the authors mention is to personally tailor stress rememedies according to what works in your home for your kids, this could be play, certain scents like vanilla, lavender or chocolate or simply, laughter.
Amber loves baths and loves lavender, so when she is tired or anxious a warm bath with a few drops of lavender oil works really well. On a personal level getting outside really helps reduce my stress, a simple walk or listening to a podcast in the park does wonders for me and of course I incorporate meditation into my life twice a day.
The fact that the book is tailored towards young kids and adults is great, as is the fact that it is evidence-based and written by experts.
What tools do you use to help reduce stress? Head over to the book review highlights on my Instagram to hear Amber giving her adorable opinion on the book and stress.
*I recieved a hard copy of The Stress Goblin’s Hat in return for an honest review*