It is Children’s Mental Health Week and there has never been a more important time to express feelings and thoughts about mental health and wellbeing as the number of children affected by mental health issues continue to soar during the COVID-19 pandemic.
We know that children in care often encounter great difficulties, disruption, and distress at the best of times. The ongoing pandemic and school closures are creating extra pressures as many children are separated from friends, teachers and other sources of support.
The theme for this year’s Children’s Mental Health Week is ‘Express Yourself’ and today also marks ‘Time to Talk Day’ which is all about starting conversations about mental health to help end the surrounding stigma.
Talking about problems can be the first step for looked after children to start to make sense of difficult emotions and feelings. However, finding ways to express thoughts and feelings creatively can help children and young people to cope with challenging circumstances, prevent problems escalating, and envision a better, more hopeful future. Here are some creative ideas for helping looked after children express themselves and share how they feel.
Dust off the paint brushes!
Painting and drawing is an easy way for kids and adults alike to express their feelings without saying a word. Use paints, pencils or crayons and create scenes or characters from a favourite book, film or from imagination. Encourage fun by drawing cartoons of each other and other family members, including pets, or create a super-hero addition to the family. Visit the Place2B Art Room, which has loads of downloadable creative projects to help you and your foster children create art together. Each project offers space to explore a theme and all the activities can be adapted to a range of settings with children of different abilities and ages.
Move to the music
Moving and dancing to music is a great way to reflect on feelings and emotions and the best part is that there is no right or wrong way to it! Make a playlist of songs and encourage children to move to the music based on how it makes them feel. You could also create your own sounds by using household items such as cups, pots and pans, and rice or dried pasta in a plastic container.
Write it down
Writing a diary is an ideal introduction into self-expression and can also be a fun experience. Make sure you reassure your child that it is their private journal and that there’s no wrongs or rights when it comes to self-expression through writing – it’s all about what works for them. Other ideas could include writing lyrics for a song using a tune they already know, writing a list of words that they like, or rewriting the dialogue for their favourite TV programme. There are lots of ideas here to encourage children to write creatively.
Act it out
Drama is a fantastic way to help children develop creative thinking, and share ideas, listen, and problem solve. There are many fun activities you can pick, from miming, tongue twisters and charades to pantomimes, fashion shows or even a short play. A simple and fun way to get started is by mimicking each other. Pick a leader, face each other and whatever the leader does the other replicates. This could be speaking, singing, acting out a character, or using body language. Find your ideal activity and see this list of 50 drama games and activities to spark social distanced creativity.
Whatever you decide, it’s worth checking out these virtual sessions, which are led by experts and familiar faces across acting, art, content creation, dance and writing. You can also encourage the children in your care to join the Looked After Children's Council and Lil' LAC Club, which provides ways to meet in a safe and welcoming environment and talk about the issues that affect them whilst they are in the care of Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council.
You will also find lots more ideas on the Fostering Rotherham blog, which is packed with useful guides, resources and activities for fostering families.
For further support and advice related to children’s mental health you can visit:
NHS Every Mind Matters - mental health advice for all
Childline - the mental health charity for children and young people - the free helpline is 0800 1111
Stem4 -promotes positive mental health in teenagers
Samaritans - mental health support for all - the free helpline is 116 123
Place2Be - offers a free text messaging service for anyone in the UK, Text CONNECT to 85258. Available 24/7.
The Young Minds Parents/Carers Helpline, which you can call for free on 0808 802 5544 (9.30am-4pm, Monday-Friday, UK).
What to do if I’m worried about a child or young person in my care
We recommend talking to someone who can help you understand what they might be going through and refer you to specialist support.
For out of hours support please contact the Rotherham Team on 01709 382121
We would also recommend contacting your social worker and your child’s social worker so they can provide support and refer you through to our Therapeutic Team.
Learn more about fostering in Rotherham
If you have any questions about fostering in Rotherham, book a call back with a member of our experienced team at a time that suits you. All our call backs are confidential.