Embracing Good Mental Health in Children & Young People
Have you ever wondered if mental health problems could be, in some way, contagious?
I’m sure you have noticed that your own possibly negative or even dysfunctional psychological state could be picked up from the young people that you interact with and at times it’s like a contagious disease that begins to affect them too.
Don’t stop reading just yet! – I haven’t lost my mind. There are a few different ways in which I can support this theory.
Firstly, let’s get the weird abstract one out of the way which is for those of you that are parents. How’s about this for an idea: Have you heard of inherited memory? Is it a real thing, I don’t know?! Maybe it is! But I certainly think if we can inherit other people’s genetic code from our physical body and so perhaps we can also inherit their genetic code for things like memories, experiences, worries, fears and anxieties.
Is it a good idea for you as a parent (or a potential parent those of you that are pregnant or planning on being) to get your own mental health in ship shape before you start raising and influencing young people?
Here’s another slightly easier to digest theory: Children learn by modelling. I’m sure you know the saying ‘monkey see monkey do’ that’s kind of how children learn.
There is a scientific theory about ‘mirror neurons.’ A mirror neuron is basically within the mind to see what you do and then reflect it into themselves.
You might be at this point saying:
“No Gemma, there is no way that my own mental and emotional state is affecting my child or is affecting the children in my class or is affecting the young people that I teach and influence. I am a master at wrapping this thing up and keeping it inside. No one would ever know how I’m thinking and feeling I’ve got this disguised thing down!”
You might think that you’ve nailed it but the chances are you probably haven’t because stuff leaks out. Stuff leaks out particularly out of our physiology in the little changes in the intonation in our voice.
Let me give you an example of proof that this is a real thing. A parent brought his son to see me in my private therapy clinic because his son had a fear of dogs. The boy had this tremendous crippling fear of dogs and the parent spoke to me privately and said listen:
“I have a very bad fear of dogs too. I’ve learned to manage it so I don’t completely freak out and I have never displayed any fear whatsoever in front of my son. There is no way that his fear of dogs has come from my fear of dogs because I’ve never demonstrated it. I’ve never talked about it and I’ve never given off any clues of any sense of fear when I’m around a dog.“
If that child hasn’t picked up on it by something that’s been set somewhere along the lines, then they have picked this up from noticing the tiniest changes in that parent’s physical body or their intonation. It may have been a small little flicker in their eye that has given off this warning signal whenever they’ve come into contact with dogs with their parent present. Here, perhaps it is therapy for parents that is needed.
Modelling is something we talk about a lot in NLP and modelling is the process by which we observe someone who has a set of skills that we would desire and we watch everything about them and we hear everything that they’re saying and we probe into how they think and as a result of getting down there strategy getting the individual pieces of their jigsaw puzzle that makes up who they are when they’re doing the thing that we want to be able to do and steal from them when we do that there are so many intricate bits of detail that we can tune into to be able to ‘steal’ that useful behaviour that somebody has but children do this naturally like it’s hardwired into them to learn in that way.
The only difference is they might not always pick up the good stuff. They’re going to pick up the bad bits too. For this reason, if you are a parent who is interacting or is soon to be interacting with a new human – life get your head straight! Reach out to receive therapy for parents.
If you are a teacher or an influencer of young people and you’ve got your anxieties going on in your mind get those seen too because if you don’t, at some point in time and in some way those behaviours will begin to exhibit themselves to the young people in your lives. If they do not point it out to you and probe you about it and draw your attention to it in an embarrassing way then the chances are they will pick it up unconsciously and begin to replicate it within themselves.
I have been in situations where a teacher has told me that many people in her class are behaving in erratic, anxious, chaotic ways. When I have spoken to that teacher on a one to one basis I have not been surprised to discover that she is experiencing some historic mental issues and experiences that caused her to be anxious and chaotic in her own life.
Even though those things may have happened years and years and years ago they are still influencing how she is interacting now. If that can happen in that kind of environment imagine how much more impactful it is when it’s between a parent and a child who sometimes seem to transfer messages to each other as if by osmosis or some kind of like psychic kind of intuition that they have between each other.
It’s really important that if we want to bring up a generation of young people now with good mental health that the people who teach them and influence them to have got their mental health sorted out first so that is my message to you for this month.
If you would like to know how we can help you as a parent or teacher in improving your mental health, why not contact us today and speak to a member of the team about therapy for parents.
By Gemma Bailey
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