Parents can use a simple “traffic light system” to find out how kids are feeling

Currently, we are all dealing with many things.

The pandemic, stress at home caused by rising fuel, energy, rent and food prices. Knife crime, war and now shootings.

And it’s all on top of the usual things you eagerly anticipate your little ones might face, like exam pressure, first heartbreak, and anxiety.

READ MORE: ‘Obedience children become obedient adults’ less likely to fight back

The current climate is putting us through more than ever and it is difficult to know what information can have a negative effect on the mental health of your children.

Not checking in regularly can cause our little ones to deal with negative thoughts on their own. This can cause relatively minor issues to develop into more serious issues that we may not notice until our child has a hard time keeping things under control and is so upset that we feel helpless and overwhelmed.

Sometimes an open conversation can be enough to calm your child’s mind. But your child may be too afraid of upsetting you or causing more stress at home to let you know they’re having a hard time.

But there is an invaluable tool for parents by allowing them to get a glimpse of how their child is feeling at any given moment. Especially if they have trouble opening up to you.

Dr Sarah Vohra @themindmedic on Instagram is a consultant psychiatrist who wrote the amazing book Mental Health in Children and Young People, which includes invaluable advice for checking your child’s mental health. It’s a simple traffic light system, where each light directly corresponds to their current mental state, at any given time.

Green means I’m having a good day, managing my emotions well, feeling positive, having no negative thoughts about myself or wanting to hurt myself.

amber mean, i find things difficult, i think you need to sit down and talk to me, i have dark thoughts in my head and i’m thinking about hurting myself but i don’t think i’m going to act on it result. I may need to see a doctor.

Red means, I’m really struggling, I’m having trouble controlling my emotions, the thoughts in my head are getting darker and stronger. I may not want to talk to you and you may need to call the GP, emergency services or take me to A&E for advice.

When you are both feeling light and good and you are in a comfortable place where your child is likely to open up to you, explain the system and talk in detail about the meaning of each color.

Then, moving forward, both of you are perfectly equipped to be able to check in and talk about their current mental state, even if they don’t have the words to describe it. You can send the traffic light emoji in a text and they can text back with a heart emoji in the color that most closely matches how they feel.

You can also use house cards, each with a different color. Ask them to show you a card each time they want to tell you how they feel.

For young children, you can draw faces on paper – sad, straight or happy face so that your child can easily let you know how he feels at all times.

At the very least, it will help encourage your child to reflect on their mental health and communicate to others how they feel. Which is a great practice for a healthy adult life.

Find out more about this tip and a huge amount of other invaluable information on a whole range of issues affecting young people in Dr. Vohra’s book. You can find more information on Dr. Vohra’s Instagram account.

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