6. Wellbeing

The state of being comfortable, healthy, or happy. Wellbeing is a combination of physical, mental, emotional and social health.

Within ‘Connecting’, the Fathering Fundamental:

  • What kids need from their dads
  • Family Wellbeing
  • Mental and Emotional Wellbeing
  • Social Wellbeing
  • Dad dates
  • Physical Wellbeing

Fathers have a powerful impact on the social, emotional and physical well-being of children from infancy to adolescence, with lasting influences into their adult life.1,2.
Children who have an involved father are more likely to be emotionally secure, be confident to explore their surroundings, and, as they grow older, have better social connections with peers.

What kids need from their dads

The BUS principle:

Bbeing there for them.

U – show unconditional love.

S – help them realise how special they are.

  • What they need is you. Your kids need you to be present and actively engaged in in their lives.
  • Tell them you love them. Tell them they are loved not because of what they do or don’t do, but simply because they are your son or daughter.
  • Tune in and engage with your kids. Really be there. Put away the phone and connect with your kids. You never know when your child will decide that now, is the moment they want to open up to you.
  • Listen to them. Get to know them as an individual. Their thoughts, their ideas, their wishes, their likes and dislikes, their friends and their dreams.
  • Play with them. get back to your childhood, have fun and play.
  • Cherish the everyday moments. Spending everyday moments at home together has just as much value as special events.

Family Wellbeing

In your role as father or father figure, there are a number of things you can consider, to support your own wellbeing and the wellbeing of your family.

Tips for looking after family wellbeing

  • Maintain ‘normal’ day-to-day routines where possible, e.g. keep regular wake up and bedtimes, playing and outdoor times, exercise, learning and working times.
  • Use family meetings for wellbeing check-ins – ask open questions about how everyone is coping and how the family is functioning together. What is working? What isn’t going so well?
  • Tune into your family’s feelings. Let them know that it’s normal to have a range of feelings during this time and it’s good to talk about them.
  • Stay connected with family and friends. Keep regular contact via phone or video calls. As social beings, we need to be connected to be healthy and happy.
  • Focus on the positives. Each day ask your family members to think of something they are happy about, are grateful for, have laughed at or have enjoyed.
  • Take care of yourself. Your children will be looking at you and how you are managing and responding.

 If you are struggling, call Lifeline on 131 114, or Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636.

If children are struggling, they can call Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800 or Youth Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636

Mental and Emotional Wellbeing

Emotional development

Emotional development starts when your child is first born. They feel and react to basic feelings of joy, fear, anger, sadness, surprise and disgust.

As children grow and develop, their range of feelings, thoughts and actions expand. How children respond to different feelings affects their daily choices, behaviour and their wellbeing.

Key messages:

  • Feelings change: During the day, we can experience many different feelings, some pleasant and some unpleasant.
  • It’s ok to feel angry or upset: We sometimes can’t help feeling angry or upset but we can manage how we act when we are feeling like this.
  • When we are feeling unpleasant feelings, there are things we can do to help ourselves feel better.

We often talk about our feelings; they are directly linked to our emotions. For example – we may feel ‘happy’ or ‘cheerful’ because we have received a present. When this feeling continues, we are experiencing the emotion of ‘happiness’. Different emotions may come and go throughout the day.

Some emotions feel pleasant, some feel unpleasant and sometimes we can feel overwhelmed by our emotions. Developing emotional understanding and management is a very important childhood learning process.

Skills for learning their own emotions include:

  • Learning to name their emotions
  • Recognising the physical and emotional responses to each of these emotions
  • Learning to express their own feelings verbally
  • Learning effective strategies for managing feelings
  • Learning to calm oneself down in the face of overwhelming emotions
  • Learning strategies for helping themselves to feel better when they are experiencing unpleasant emotions

Identifying, understanding and responding to the emotions of others are also very important social skills. Children experience a whole range of different feelings just like you do as an adult. Learning about our emotions and how to manage them, particularly our unpleasant emotions, helps us to enjoy happy relationships with others. We all need help to do this, even as adults.

Skills for learning about emotions and others include:

  • Recognising a range of emotions in others
  • Learning to treat others with kindness and empathy
  • Helping others to feel better when they are experiencing unpleasant emotions

Supporting emotional development

The first step to identifying and managing our emotions is to be able to ‘name them’. Children usually don’t have a wide range of vocabulary to explain how they are feeling and often use the basic terms happy, sad, angry, scared etc to describe their feelings.  But we know there are many more emotion words that we use to describe how we are really feeling. For example – When we are looking forward to Christmas, we might say we say we are feeling excited, curious, thrilled, eager, enthusiastic which are all different intensities of the emotion of happiness. 

Tips for developing an emotional understanding with your child

  • Bring your child’s attention to emotions. When your child or someone else (family members, friends, a character in a book or on TV) is expressing an emotion, use the opportunity to label the particular emotion. “I can see you are feeling annoyed, tell me about how you are feeling”.
  • Never discount their emotions. If your child talks about their emotions, always encourage this and if they are feeling unpleasant emotions let them know you can help them to find ways to feel better.
  • Help them learn the names of emotions. Discuss the everyday feelings they experience and encourage them to use descriptive words to describe how they feel. “When I am feeling a little bit angry, I might say I am feeling frustrated or I am feeling annoyed”.
  • Talk about how you feel. Demonstrate the use of different language to describe how your feelings can change throughout the day.
  • Use stories to explore emotions. Stories that describe people expressing their emotions can help your child to learn about emotional responses. It also helps them to relate to the emotions of others which supports the development of empathy.
  • Watch TV or movies character’s responses together. Identify the emotions and responses of characters and discuss your own emotional responses to the content. “How would you feel if that happened to you?” “How would you deal with that situation if it happened to you?”

Supporting mental wellbeing

Kids will express their feelings not only through words but also through their expressions, actions and behaviour. Sometimes they may act out their feelings in physical, inappropriate or problematic ways. Keep in mind that behind every behaviour is a feeling.

General tips for supporting your kids’ mental wellbeing

  • Schedule emotional check-ins. During times of change and stress, it is a good idea to check-in with your kids and see how they are coping each day. You could try having days of the week on the fridge and getting the kids to draw an emoji for how they are feeling. This is a good way to monitor them over time.
  • Help kids name feelings. The process of identifying and naming an emotion can help the brain to calm down. Learning to identify and express emotions helps kids develop the skills they need to manage emotions.
  • Explore emotions. Read stories or watch videos and discuss the emotions of the characters. Talk about how what they might be feeling and how they respond to these emotions.
  • Practise gratitude. Take time to chat with your kids each day and encourage them to reflect on what they’re grateful for or what went well today. Doing this regularly has been proven to increase happiness and foster both physical and mental health. So makes sure you do it too.
  • Make sure kids get ample sleep. Primary school kids need 10-12 hours per day. Try to keep clear and consistent routines including no screen time one hour before bed, a ‘wind-down’ routine before bed, such as quiet reading or storytime before lights out.

Social Wellbeing

The phrase “social distancing should not mean social isolation” has been used around the world during these past months and it holds an important message for all of us. We are all social creatures and need to be connected, belong and be nurtured to be happy and healthy. This can be a really good time to connect with your kids and enhance their social and relationship skills.

  • Tune in and have real conversations. Make time to have conversations about topics that interest them. Ask for their ideas and opinions and really listen to their input. Even younger children have ideas and opinions about things in the world.
  • Practice social skills. You can teach and practise social skills with your kids through play, games and family activities. Skills can include sharing, cooperating, negotiating, problem-solving, listening and using manners.
  • Have discussions about friends. Discuss healthy and unhealthy friendships. Talk about topics like; what makes a good friend? what is the difference between being popular and being a good friend? How do you look after your friendships?
  • Organise video catchups for your children with their friends. If your children are older, they may organise this themselves, but for younger children, a virtual playdate or lunch/afternoon tea could be organised via their friends’ parents so children can talk to and see each other.
  • Encourage positive online communication. Support and monitor your children’s online connections with friends. Encourage them to use their social skills online and always communicating in positive ways.

If you are struggling, call Lifeline on 131 114, or Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636.

If children are struggling, they can call Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800 or Youth Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636 

Physical Wellbeing

Regular physical activity benefits both the body and mind. Exercise also improves mental health and can reduce the risk of depression, mild anxiety and improve overall wellbeing1.

Research shows that keeping active can:

  • help lift mood
  • help improve sleeping patterns
  • increase energy levels
  • help block negative thoughts and/or distract people from daily worries

Did you know Australian kids are some of the least active in the world, with as few as 1 in 5 meeting the recommended 60 minutes of daily exercise? While it is a bit more difficult at the moment to engage in regular exercise routines, it is can also be a great opportunity for you and your family to establish some new strategies and regular routines to stay fit and healthy together.

6 Tips for family physical activity

  • Set up a regular routine to be active every day. Making a specific time to be active and ensure you get your daily physical activity.
  • Keep screen time to a minimum. where possible, try to create clear and consistent limits. Think about what your kids could be doing instead such as being active, having family time or playing creatively.
  • Exercise with your family. Plan time to be active with your children. Games at home, walks in the parks, or cycling can be ways the whole family can relax and be active and healthy.
  • Play with your kids. Play is a great way to get fit and have fun. Playing chasy, a ball game, running races or a dance competition will get you puffing plus make you laugh, which is also great for your health and wellbeing.
  • Set yourself and your family exercise goals. You could record your steps or time you have played. Record your progress on a weekly activity chart or map how far you have travelled. Reward yourselves with something you value.
  • Walk and talk. Take your phone and have walking meetings with colleagues or catch-ups with friends and family to encourage them to walk too. Ge the kids walking and talking to friends.

 

References

  1. Adapted and retrieved from – World health organisation – https://www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/be-active-during-covid-19