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Talking to children about mental health- advice please :)

(10 Posts)
Ilikeyoursleeves Mon 20-Oct-14 19:50:34

Hi I'm looking for some advice please. I'm a clinical psychologist and I've been asked by my daughters teacher to speak to the class for their 'people who help us' topic. I've to speak to a primary 1 class of 4 and 5 year olds about what a psychologist is / does for about twenty minutes! Not too sure what to talk about or how to pitch it so I would appreciate any suggestions. I am going to describe it as having a 'happy / healthy head' rather than 'mental health' as that may be easier to understand at their age plus reduce the stigma that is unfortunately often attached to mental health issues. I'm thinking about talking about basic emotions and what to do if you feel sad, worried etc. I want to keep it fairly light and interactive, just wondering if anyone has any thoughts about what would / wouldn't be helpful? Many thanks x

JudgeJudyKicksAss Mon 20-Oct-14 20:07:55

As a mum of 3 I have used an analogy of electrical wires to try to explain mental health to my lot. I've said that inside some people, even if they don't mean it to happen, sometimes the wires haven't quite plugged in properly and gone into the wrong sockets so, for example, that instead of feeling happy, even if they really want to be, the happy wires have gone into the sad socket by accident but that the doctor can make it better (like an electrician). My trio seem to understand that, and I think it catches their imagination, without causing too much confusion (they haven't asked me if I'm a robot yet anyway!). I think the main things are that a) its no ones fault and these things happen and b) you can get help to make you better.

LastingLight Mon 20-Oct-14 20:23:20

Wow, 20 minutes is a long time for 4 and 5 year olds! Maybe make it interactive? Have pictures and ask what emotion each face shows (sad, happy, angry, surprise). Then ask them to tell you why the girl is sad.

Explain that sometimes people are sad because of things that happened and they find it very difficult to be happy again, then a psychologist can help. And sometimes they are sad for no reason at all, and that can also be helped. How does the psychologist help? By talking with you about why you're sad and how you can become happy again. You can maybe also talk about being angry and hurting yourself and other people, where the psychologist can help you to find better ways to show your feelings.

That's very simplistic I know, but I think they're too young for more sophisticated explanations.

Ilikeyoursleeves Mon 20-Oct-14 21:43:33

Thanks for the posts, very helpful!

BookABooSue Mon 20-Oct-14 21:51:06

We have a children's book that talks about MH in terms of the weather so people have sunny or cloudy days. It also explains that sometimes something will cause the sun or clouds, but for some people the weather changes come suddenly and they might need to lie down, rest or talk to someone like a counsellor, psychologist.

It also mentioned some techniques for dealing with other people's moods eg children aren't responsible for the moods of the adults around them and they can imagine an umbrella to protect them from scary or unsettling weather/moods.

NanaNina Mon 20-Oct-14 22:25:48

Sorry but I think it's wholly inappropriate for 4/5 year olds and it makes me wonder how much the class teacher (or head) understands child development. I'm a bit surprised you've agreed to do it to be honest. I think it would be ok for year 5 or 6 but not year 1. And 20 mins...far too long.

As I'm sure you know children of this age have no capacity for abstract thoughts and are concrete thinkers. You will only hold their attention I think if you make it very visual - BIG coloured pictures of smiley/sad/cross faces but even if the chdrn identify the emotions - what then - suppose you could ask what makes them happy/sad/scared/cross. Ideally you need toys though - a big teddy bear maybe and some dolls/puppets and you could do a bit of a role play with the puppets saying nice things to teddy and then jump him up and down and he can say "whee ........I'm so happy" - then they say something that makes sad and you can get him to cover his head with his paws............or maybe the teddy "talks" to the puppets............

Good luck.

FancyForgetting Tue 21-Oct-14 13:47:28

Not sure if this is useful to you OP, and may not be the angle you're looking for, but there are some lovely books for that age group aimed at encouraging self-esteem - one large picture book called 'What I Like About Me' is particularly popular with P1 teachers and looks at how we are all different, but all special. The last page is a mirror for the child to look at him/herself smile

If you have a look at it on Amazon you will also see links to other similar-themed books which you may find useful.

Ilikeyoursleeves Tue 28-Oct-14 21:37:41

Thanks for the advice everyone. Nananina, I would have to disagree that it's inappropriate to talk to 4 and 5 year olds about feelings. It's never to early to be aware of feelings and the very core of learning to self soothe is to recognise feelings and understand them. I am very aware they are concrete thinkers and my talk will take that into account. I have a teddy I'm using plus a book and we will do some Interactive games to identify emotions in a funny, child centred way. I've told the parents of the class I'm doing it and the idea has been very positively received.

BookABooSue Wed 29-Oct-14 09:53:32

Ilike I hope it goes well.
DS is 5 and starting to link emotions with physical feelings and it definitely helps him to self-soothe. He notices now if his tummy is starting to feel funny (eg butterflies or jumping) because he's angry or upset or scared. It's actually amazing to see him make the connections, remove himself from the situation and do something to self-soothe.

keepcalmdontpanic Sat 01-Nov-14 19:16:21

I have a friend who's a psychologist.

She talks about illness being when your body is poorly and MH when your feelings are poorly.

My kids seemed to get this really easity.

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