Being a parent can be overwhelming. Being a parent to a visually impaired child can be even more confusing and complex. With frightening statistics about children and mental health readily available on the internet, we can feel powerless in making sure our children are happy and safe. However, there are some simple tips you can incorporate into your everyday life, to help improve your child’s mental health and increase their resilience.
The 5 ways to Wellbeing:
It is important for your child to connect with others – with you, other family members, peers and friends, teachers etc. Make time in your day to connect with your child. Ask them about their day, their friends. Play with them. This is particularly important for children who are less verbal. Children express themselves through play as well as words.
Being able to talk to someone other than a parent is sometimes very helpful for children. Grandparents, uncles, aunts, teachers or even a counsellor can all offer support.
Many visually impaired children, particularly in mainstream schools, may never have met another VI person their age, which can lead to feelings of isolation. Attending activities run by VI organisations, like VICTA or others, will give your child the opportunity to connect with others in a similar situation.
Encourage children to enjoy what they are doing now and to pay more attention to the current moment. Teach them to not worry about the future, but enjoy today. Another word for this is ‘mindfulness’. You could try the Mindful Monsters cards from Scope: Link to Scope Mindful Monsters. They teach Mindfulness in a way children can understand, and also encourage children and parents to spend time together and connect with one another.
This could be particularly important if your child has a progressive condition. It is crucial to inform your child about their condition so they can be prepared, and not be worried about the unknown. However, it is also important that they enjoy the ‘now’, and know that no amount of worrying can change the future.
If your child is particularly anxious, something like a Worry Monster might help: Link to Worry Monster on Amazon.
This enables them to give their worry to the monster, so they don’t need to worry about it at bedtime. It also gives you as a parent a chance to find out what the worry is and make steps to improve the situation (if possible).
Physical exercise is such an important aspect of good mental health. Encourage your children to play outside and be active, no matter the weather. This often needs to be modelled to them by their parents – so get out there as well!
It can be easy to wrap children in cotton wool, even more so if they are visually impaired. This can prevent some children from being as active as they should be. All children fall over, bump into things and injure themselves. Blind children should be no exception to this. Good mobility skills early on are key to your child being able to move independently and be physically active. There are various organisations that specialise in groups for disabled and visually impaired children. Your local mainstream clubs should be able to make some simple changes to make their groups accessible for your child. Our Parent Portal has more information and advice on this: Visit the VICTA Parent Portal Leisure Section
Learning new skills keeps your child’s mind active, and can have a hugely positive impact on their confidence and self-esteem. Encourage them to keep trying and learning, even when it can seem difficult. Praise them and congratulate them, always letting them know that your love for them is not dependent on success.
Just because your child has a visual impairment, it doesn’t mean they can’t give back to their community. Depending on your child’s age, talk to them about what they could do to help others. Older children could volunteer for various organisations, for younger children it could just be small acts of kindness. It could be helping out the new child at school, visiting an elderly relative, or contributing something to the foodbank, or a Christmas Shoebox.
If you are concerned about your child, contact your GP. Children can also contact Childline
Read our other blogs around Children’s Mental Health Week in our Stories Section