Book Review: A Mind of their Own

Written by Katharine Hill, reviewed by Sarah Braithwaite

‘A Mind of their own.  Building your child’s emotional wellbeing in a post pandemic world’ has been written by Katharine Hill, author, speaker and broadcaster on family issues. 

Katharine is the UK Director for the charity ‘Care for the family’.  This charity promotes strong family life and help for those who face family difficulties-motivated by Christian compassion.

This book is a common-sense approach to helping encourage children to become strong, resilient and life embracing adults.  As such this book helps not only those who parent or who have close contact with children but any adult too who needs a helpful step to overcome adversity and struggling mental wellbeing.  It happens to have been written during the Covid crisis but is applicable to any time.

“Building Your Child’s Emotional Wellbeing
in a Post Pandemic World.”

In my job as a teacher and as a parent I have first-hand experience of the trauma and insecurity that many children currently feel in our society. This book is full of practical tips and stories by many parents who have journeyed before us – modelling healthy emotions and skills needed to navigate our complex yet inviting and exciting world.  Katharine has delved into the psychological literature and evidence to support her wise and practical suggestions to support our children.

She acknowledges the difficult ‘space’ we currently find ourselves in – a waiting area that has unsettled family routines – that have caused us to pause and think about what is important to us.  Whether we remain shackled by Covid constraints or not, this book is a really good guide to help nurture, encourage and ‘grow’ our children. 

There are 21 short chapters, all very readable and full of succinct guidance, examples and suggestions of ‘next steps’ to help a child. There’s also an extensive Appendix providing further help and support for general and then specific issues that we or our children might experience, for example,,, and others linked to eating disorders and social media use and safety.”

Growing pressures on family life

Katharine has written the book as she is increasingly aware of the growing pressures on family life and overstretched mental health services, quoting that 1 in 8 of 5–19-year-olds have at least one mental health disorder.  

The book gives key strategies for parents that are known to work in the home, at school and in everyday life.  She mentions that the ‘Millenium Cohort Study’, BMJ Open, vol. 9, no. 9, 2019 found that the more time teenagers spent on social media the greater the impact on their mental wellbeing.  She notes that anxiety and depression amongst young people has coincided with the introduction of the smartphone and where often social dramas are now played out.  

“One in eight of 5–19-year-olds have at least one mental health disorder.”

The book has been written through concern that more of our children, youth and indeed adults have poor emotional wellbeing.  Throughout her book she uses the terms emotional wellbeing to refer to the quality of our emotional experience.  People who are emotionally healthy can cope with life’s challenge, keep problems in perspective, overcome problems more ably and bounce back from setbacks.

Let's talk

I particularly found helpful the chapter ‘Let’s talk’.  There are times we need to pause and let our children do the talking and we need to take time to listen and if need be, refrain from commenting at all.  When that happens, she tells us, it gives them an incredible sense of self-worth and significance.  Her advice can be summed up as:

  1. Find a good time to listen
  2. Find a good place to listen, for example walking the dog
  3. Focus and give eye contact
  4. Listen to how they are feeling
  5. Don’t try and fix it
  6. Don’t have a no-go area

Each chapter then has a suggestion of ‘Action Points’ for example, don’t as an adult take things too personally, be prepared to apologise and don’t interrupt followed by an ‘Activity’ you can then do with your child.

Many chapters were helpful, including the one entitled ‘It’s OK to fail’ where there is good advice about talking to children about your own failures and what we have learned from this.  Failures can undoubtedly be good as they are tremendous opportunities to learn.  Once again, there are ‘Action Points’ and Activity’ suggestions after this and every chapter.

So, I found this book to be a practical, no-nonsense common-sense guide to help our children and youth – and indeed ourselves and other adults – to navigate the pitfalls that life has to offer and how to improve our mental wellbeing.  This book is definitely worth a read. 

Cover photo by Bruno Nascimento on Unsplash

Published 29 July 2021