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How to support young people with their mental health

Taking place this year on 10th October, World Mental Health Day is all about raising awareness and driving positive changes for mental health.

Mental health is an important topic for everyone in society, but this is perhaps especially true when it comes to fostering. Research suggests that around 45% of looked-after children have a diagnosable mental health disorder, and up to 70%-80% have recognisable mental health concerns.* Foster care can be an emotionally challenging experience for those in care, who are likely to have previously experienced trauma and adversity at a young age in life. This can have a significant impact on mental health.

Foster carers can have a positive impact on many areas of a foster child’s life. This includes providing a safe and supportive environment that supports mental wellbeing. With that in mind, here are our top five tips for supporting a foster child or young person with their mental health.

1. Build trust and establish a connection

Building trust is the foundation of any healthy relationship. Foster children and young people often come from backgrounds of mistrust and instability, so it’s crucial to establish a strong emotional connection. Spend quality time together, engage in open and honest communication, and let them know that you are there for them, no matter what. Taking an interest in their hobbies could be a great way to bond.

2. Encourage emotional expression and open communication

Foster children may struggle with expressing their emotions due to past experiences. Encourage them to talk about their feelings, fears, and concerns. Be patient and provide a safe space for them to share without judgment. This helps them learn to process their emotions in a healthy way. Encourage open and honest communication from an early age. Let the child or young person know that they can talk to you about their thoughts and feelings without judgment. Create a safe space where they feel comfortable expressing themselves.

3. Promote stability and routine

Consistency and routine can provide a sense of security and stability for foster children. Establish a predictable daily schedule that includes mealtimes, bedtime, and chores. A structured environment can help reduce anxiety and create a sense of normalcy. Part of this routine could include a healthy lifestyle, which contributes to good mental health. Encourage regular exercise, a balanced diet, and adequate sleep. Limit screen time and ensure they have time for activities that bring them joy and relaxation.

4. Try to be a good listener

Being a good listener is a foundational aspect of supporting a child or young person with their mental health. When you actively listen to a child or young person, you validate their emotions and experiences. This validation helps them feel understood and accepted, which can significantly boost their self-esteem and emotional well-being. Encourage open and honest communication, letting the child or young person know that they can talk to you about their thoughts and feelings without judgment. Create a safe space where they feel comfortable expressing themselves.

5. Seek professional help when necessary

Recognise that you may not have all the answers or expertise to address complex mental health issues. If a foster child is dealing with severe emotional or psychological challenges, seek the guidance of a mental health professional. They can provide valuable insights and therapeutic interventions. Here at Unity Foster Care, we are always here to support our foster carers, which is why we have an on-call social worker 24/7, 365 days a year, for any issues outside of office hours.

Supporting a child or young person with their mental health is a continuous journey that requires care, patience, and understanding. Remember that your support plays a crucial role in shaping their mental wellbeing and future happiness.

Are you a caring and patient person, with a spare room? Could you provide a safe space for children across Yorkshire and the North East? Start your application with Unity Foster Care today. Our friendly team are on hand to answer any questions you may have, as well as support you in starting your fostering journey.

To make a start on your application, call us on 0333 772 2333 or contact us online and we’ll be in touch.

* https://mentallyhealthyschools.org.uk/risks-and-protective-factors/vulnerable-children/looked-after-children/#:~:text=Because%20of%20their%20experiences%20both,have%20recognisable%20mental%20health%20concerns.