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How to Promote Good Mental Health for Your Child.
Most parents’ dream is for their child to be healthy and happy.
This includes your child’s physical health, as well as their emotional and mental health.
Just as there are things you can do to help your child be physically healthy, there are ways that you can help promote good mental health for your child.
Start by supporting your child and boosting their self-esteem. Then try teaching them stress-management techniques.
You should also consider how to address serious problems if they do arise.
Supporting Your Child
Show them affection. You don’t have to hug your child every five minutes, but one great way to promote good mental health for your child is to let them know that you care.
Showing affection can give your child a sense of security and confidence.
It can also model appropriate ways to express emotions.
Although older children and teens might resist a bit, give them a hug, pat on the back, or even a fist bump every now and then.
Tell your child that you care about them and that you love them on a regular basis.
For instance, you could say, “Love you” when you’re dropping them off at school.
Make sure that you let your child know that you love them no matter what.
Do not only tell them you love them or offer praise when they do something that is pleasing to you.
Talking with your child on a regular basis can help support their mental well-being in several ways.
Good communication will help maintain and strengthen your relationship.
It will also let your child know that you care about them and that you’re there for them.
It can also make it easier for you to notice if something is wrong and for them to tell you about it.
Talk to your child about everyday events. For example, tell them how your day was and ask how theirs was.
Talk about world events and news in your community.
Talk about emotions and feelings and how to manage them.
For instance, if you notice your child seems disappointed, you might say, “I see you’re disappointed.
I know how that feels. One way to handle it is to think about something positive.”
Send them a good morning text or try video chatting when you can’t be face-to-face.
It’s a great way to quickly communicate to them that you care.
Remember that half of communicating is listening.
Give your child your full attention when they’re talking to you and really listen to what they’re telling you.
See their pediatrician regularly.
Your child’s physician can be a great resource for you and your child for medical and other issues.
In addition to making sure everything is physically okay, their pediatrician can provide you with information and recommendations for others services.
Attend all scheduled appointments.
Regular check-ups can help you identify potential problems early on.
Talk to their pediatrician about any questions or concerns you may have.
For instance, you might ask, “Can you recommend some resources that can help me to learn more about promoting good mental health for my child?”
Encourage your child to ask their pediatrician questions and talk about issues concerning them.
Try sitting down with your child before the appointment and making a list of all of their questions and concerns.
It is easy to forget these when the appointment comes, so making and taking this list to the appointment will help to ensure your child can bring up all of their questions and concerns.
Form a relationship with school staff.
Teachers, coaches, school counselors, and support staff spend several hours each day with your child.
They can help build your child’s self-confidence, handle problems, and let you know if there might be something going on with your child.
Attend parent-teacher conferences and other meetings with the adults in your child’s life.
Ask school and community leaders for support when your child is facing issues.
Make sure your child knows that there are adults they can turn to if they ever need help with anything.
For example, you might say, “You can talk to your teachers about homework and anything else that might be on your mind.”
Reach out to family and friends.
Just like your child needs a support team to help build good mental health, you also should rely on the people close to you.
Turn to friends and family for advice, encouragement, and parenting examples.
They can support you, as well as be a part of your child’s support team.
Ask other parents you know and respect for tips on promoting your child’s mental and emotional wellbeing.
You could say, “What are some things you do to support your child’s mental health?”
Let your child know that your family and friends care about them, too.
For instance, you could tell your child, “You can always talk to your aunts, uncles, or grandparents about things going on in your life.”
Boosting Your Child’s Self-Esteem
Give encouraging feedback. Part of good mental health is the ability to handle feedback and criticism.
Early experiences receiving feedback can help your child learn to accept criticism without it lowering their self-esteem.
You can help your child by providing them with corrective feedback, as well as specific praise.
Instead of just telling your child what they’re doing wrong, suggest ways they can improve.
For instance, instead of saying, “You’re not reading that right,” you might say, “Try breaking the word down into smaller parts.”
Praise your child’s efforts rather than their qualities.
For example, you could say, “ I’m proud of how you stuck with that project,” instead of saying, “You’re so smart.”
Teach them about positive self-talk.
Showing them how to combat negative self-thoughts and the criticism of others can help promote good mental health in your child.
Positive self-talk can help them maintain their self-esteem as a child and as an adult.
Model using it yourself.
For instance, you might say, “Wow, his comment on my post was kind of mean.
I’m going to remind myself that I’m still a great person.”
Help your child develop a list of their positive qualities, skills, and traits.
They can refer to this list when they need to.
Provide positive experiences.
One way that children develop self-esteem is by experiencing success.
Having these experiences can help build their confidence and promote good mental health.
Create regular opportunities for your child to display and develop their skills and capabilities.
You can give your child tasks to do that are age-appropriate and that you know they can handle, but it is more important to let them decide what tasks are important to them.
For example, a young child may get the most joy out of buttoning a button on their own for the first time.
Be sure to share in your child’s celebration.
Allow your child to show their independence.
For instance, resist the temptation to help your toddler with their shoes.
Just be patient and allow them to show you they can get dressed without your help.
Encourage your child to be social.
Having friends and participating in social activities is a necessary and fun part of growing up.
Being social promotes good mental health because it can build self-esteem and give your child additional people to get support from.
Provide your child with the opportunity to meet and socialize with peers, as well as to participate in activities at their school and in your community.
Take your child places where they can meet other kids their age.
For instance, you might go to the park, a community center, or a trendy café.
Support your child in their extracurricular activities and hobbies.
For example, encourage your child to explore their interest in swimming by joining local swim team.
Support their interests
Although you may not be able to attend every event they’re participating in, you can still support them and their interests.
Letting them know that you’re interested in their hobbies and activities can help boost their self-esteem and encourage them to have character and confidence-building experiences.
It also lets your child know that the things that are important to them matter to you as well.
Ask your child questions about their interests and activities.
For example, if they enjoy online gaming you might ask about the latest game release.
Or, for instance, you could make snacks for your child’s basketball team or help out with their fundraiser.
Encourage your child to try new activities.
You might say, “I’m proud of how you explore new experiences and opportunities.”
Teaching Stress Management
Show them deep-breathing techniques.
While children don’t necessarily have the same types of stress that adults do, they do experience stress.
It may be the stress of starting a new school or having a spat with their best friends.
One way to help your child maintain good mental health is to teach them to manage stress appropriately.
Deep-breathing is a stress-management technique that children of all ages can use.
Teach your child how to use deep breathing to calm down during difficult situations.
For example, when they feel angry, show them how to count to five as they slowly inhale and exhale to calm down.
Show your child how to inhale through their nose, hold it a few seconds, and then release it through your mouth.
You might say, “Watch how I breath in, hold it, and then let it go.”
Prepare nutritious foods.
Eating nutritious food promotes your child physical health by giving them energy and maintaining their immune system, which can help them manage their stress.
Although your child may prepare their own snacks and meals, you likely make some of the meals and the major grocery decisions and purchases for the household.
Provide and prepare foods that support your child’s brain development in order to help promote their mental health.
Include whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, and proteins in their meals and snacks.
You might, for example, prepare grilled chicken breast with steamed vegetables for dinner.
Encourage your child to choose healthy snacks when they aren’t with you.
For instance, you can send some fresh veggies as a post-practice snack so they don’t have to get chips out of the gym vending machine.
You can include children in grocery shopping in different ways depending on their ages.
For example, you can tell your young child what healthy items you are putting into the cart and have them repeat the names, or if they are old enough to read, they can read off the items for you.
For teens, you can involve them in making the grocery list and have them help you by crossing off items on the list as you add the to the cart.
Encourage good sleep habits.
Whether you’re an adult or a child, it can be difficult to manage stress when you’re tired.
Make sure that your child is getting enough sleep each day so that they can have the energy and focus they need to be mentally alert.
Set a bedtime for your child and stick to it.
For instance, you might decide that your child should be in bed by 9:30 PM so that they can be well rested for the next day.
Create a bedtime routine to help your child get ready to rest.
For example, you could read a book together, give them a bath, and then talk for a few minutes over a glass of milk.
Be physically active with your child
This is a great way to spend quality time with your child and to promote their mental health.
Physical activity can help reduce tension, boost creativity, and help you and your child stay physically fit.
Go for a walk, swim, or bike ride together or do yoga or martial arts with your child.
Try meditation as a family.
This is a great way to help your child reduce stress and manage their emotions.
Meditating together will give you the opportunity to spend time with your child and will give them a stress-management technique they can use their whole life.
Explore different forms of meditation to find the style that works best for you and your child.
#*Encourage your child to explore other types of meditation on their own.
For example, you might share resources like videos, apps, or books about meditation.
You can start by sitting or lying somewhere comfortable with your child.
Walk your child through relaxing their mind and body. You might say, “Close your eyes.
Try to just think about breathing and relaxing your body.”
Talk about journaling.
Keeping a journal is a good way for children to release their emotions and manage their stress.
This can help promote their good mental health by giving them a safe, private place to express themselves.
Talk to your child about using a journal as a way to share their thoughts, feelings, and experiences.
Give your child a blank journal and suggest creative ways for them to use it.
For instance, younger children can draw pictures, while older children can write.
Schedule a journaling time for you and your child.
Take 10 minutes each day with each of you writing in your journals.
Recognizing When There’s a Problem
Look out for problems in school.
Sometimes when children are having emotional, mental, or social problems it’s not always evident at home.
They may be able to function normally during family times, but show signs of a problem when faced with the stressors of school like peers, academics, etc.
Also, some mental health issues or learning disabilities like anxiety or ADHD are most evident in structured settings like school.
Staying in touch with how they’re doing in school academically, behaviorally, and socially can help you recognize and address any problems early on.
Be aware of falling grades, trouble completing homework, discipline issues, and other signs that there may be a learning or mental problem.
Pay attention if your child suddenly seems reluctant to go to school.
This may indicate they there are social problems, like with a bully.
Communicate frequently with your child’s teachers and other school personnel.
You can ask them to let you know if they see anything concerning.
Pay attention to sleep patterns.
Children should get about 10 hours of sleep each day, but you know your child’s specific sleeping habits.
Some children, especially teens, may seem to be constantly napping, whereas other children seem to need little sleep at all.
Sleeping a lot or only a little may not necessarily be a sign of concern.
However, sudden or dramatic changes to your child’s sleep patterns may suggest that there is a mental health issue.
Ask your child about their dreams.
Frequent nightmares may be a sign that your child has some issues that need to be addressed.
Ask them how they slept.
For children of any age, trouble falling asleep or staying asleep might suggest that there is a problem.
Pay attention to whether your child seems rested in the morning or if they seem to be tired and lacking energy.
Watch for substance abuse.
Unfortunately children may abuse alcohol and other substances like prescription medications and illegal drugs at younger ages than we would like to believe.
Being aware of the signs of substance abuse can help prevent mental health problems because the two often occur together.
Be aware of how your child spends their money.
For example, you might check to make sure their lunch money is being used at school for lunch and not other things.
Notice if there are problems with aggression.
Every child will throw a temper tantrum, yell, or become too physically aggressive at least once in their childhood.
However, it may suggest a bigger problem if these behaviors become frequent or start to negatively impact your child.
For example, if your child is bullying others at school or frequently picking fights with siblings, there may be something else that needs to be addressed.
Remember that adolescents and teens may be experiencing normal hormone changes that can account for some of their aggressiveness occasionally.
Seek help if you’re concerned.
You don’t have to wait until something happens or an issue arises to get support.
If you are concerned about your child’s mental health, you should talk to a professional as soon as possible.
Physicians, therapists, and other similar professionals have the resources and experience to help you promote and address your child’s mental and emotional wellbeing.
Ask your child’s school counselor, pediatrician, or coach for recommendations for community resources. For example, you might say, “I have some concerns about my child’s mental health.
Could you suggest places we can get help?”
See a family counselor to work through issues you all may be having and to address your concerns about your child’s mental health.