OPINION: How nature can ease your child through troubled times

Nature can be a real tonic for children

Nature can be a real tonic for children - Credit: Tom Hull

Emma Motherwell of the NSPCC explains the benefits of Childline's Calm Zone

Over the last year children have had plenty to worry about with the pandemic. It is of little surprise to discover that mental or emotional health remains the top concern for children and young people contacting Childline.

Between 1 April 2020 and March 31, 2021, there were 73,088 Childline counselling sessions about mental or emotional health.

With this in mind, if you’re worried about a child’s mental health, the first step is to always ask if you can help.

Ultimately, it is vital that children and young people know they always have someone to talk to so they never have to suffer alone. You can also explore the Childline Calm Zone with your child.

Featured on the Childline website, the Calm Zone offers activities, tools, games and videos that are easy to and can help improve children’s mental health. Whether they are feeling overwhelmed or anxious, trying some of the calming activities available in the Calm Zone, including those themed around nature, can help let go of stress and worries.

The Calm Zone’s activities are designed to be practical, calming and help to aid relaxation. They include activities such as breathing exercises, yoga and getting outdoors. Spending just five or ten minutes every day outside can help reduce feelings of worry.

Nature can be an absolute gift for children suffering from stress and anxiety. For many children, to have a connection with the natural world is to experience wonder and beauty in living things. Some children can relate better with animals and birds than they do with people. And, there are so many ways for a child to engage with the natural world.

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Perhaps you are lucky to have a garden or you live near a park, a woodland or maybe close to the sea? If so, then together you can enjoy the outdoors, have fun spotting creatures and walk about in natural habitats. Activities that can be done for free.

If you have a garden or an allotment then perhaps you can introduce your child to gardening.

 You can plant easy to grow plants like tulips and daffodils, nurture them then watch as they emerge in February and March. If you don’t have access to a garden then you can perhaps enjoy planting bulbs in pots that you can enjoy from your windowsill. For anyone keen to introduce their children to gardening, and to maybe get some tips for themselves, the NSPCC online shop has a fantastic selection of books available.

The Childline Calm Zone also has other nature related suggestions for children and young people to help tackle any unwanted feelings. Perhaps together you can look at past holiday photos of a beach you visited or somewhere in the countryside. Maybe you can watch calming videos of the sea.

Or you can try some of the Calm Zone’s breathing and yoga exercises before imagining being outdoors somewhere calm and peaceful like a tropical waterfall or a far-off mountain path. The potential is limitless.

Childline’s Calm Zone provides children and young people with a great resource for expressing their emotions and feelings. It doesn’t matter if a worry or concern is big or small, stress can take a toll on children. For additional mental health support, children can always contact Childline which is a free, private and confidential service where they can talk about anything, either online or on the phone, at anytime.

Whatever life throws at them, we’re here to show children that they matter, that we understand, and they’re not alone. That’s why, whatever’s going on in the world, whatever they’re facing, Childline will always be there for children.

Meanwhile, adults looking for advice regarding a child’s mental health can contact The NSPCC helpline which is a free 24-hour helpline that is answered by trained professional counsellors who listen and provide expert advice and support to those who need it.

Whether you’re a parent or carer looking for advice, or if you’re a professional in need of information and guidance, if you’re ever worried about a child then we’re here to help.

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