As parents, we are always concerned about our children’s physical health. We feed them healthy foods, encourage them to get plenty of exercise, and take them for regular checkups and immunisations. But when was the last time you really thought about your children’s mental health?
Unfortunately, mental health issues in children often go unnoticed until they become very serious. Yet, your child’s mental health is every bit as important as his physical health. In fact, it can have a major impact on your child’s performance in school, his behaviour, and how he feels overall from day to day.
According to the Children’s Mental Health Report, mental health disorders are the most common childhood health issue. Mental health problems can be prevented and there are many steps you can take to encourage positive mental health in your children.
Stress is part of life, so it’s very important that your child learns how to manage stress on his own. According to Dr Harold S Koplewicz, a leading children’s psychiatrist at the Child Mind Institute, “If a child’s struggles are recognised and treated ― the earlier the better ― she has a good chance of managing or overcoming symptoms and developing into a healthy adult.”
If you notice signs of stress in your child, intervening early with effective stress management techniques can help to keep minor issues from becoming major mental health problems. Many activities and alternative therapies are wonderful for relieving stress in a safe and gentle way. Here are several to consider trying:
Many parents are quick to jump in to help their children solve problems. However, most children can solve their own problems if adults give them time to express their feelings without judging them.
We all know how important exercise is for our physical health, but it can be equally beneficial for mental health as well. Not only is it a great way to relieve excess stress and anxiety, it can also give your mood an immediate boost. For kids, sports can provide a feeling of accomplishment and teach perseverance, which is great for boosting self-esteem.
2. Keep a journal
Writing down your feelings is a great way to let go of things that are bothering you. Keeping a journal ― through writing or drawing ― will give your child a private place to come to grips with his or her feelings.
3. Have creative hobbies
Art, music and other creative hobbies are fantastic outlet for relieving stress and boosting self-esteem.
4. Talk it out
Encourage your child to talk about his feelings by listening to your child’s feelings first before giving any solutions. Many parents are quick to jump in to help their children solve problems, notes Frances Yeo, a child psychologist at Thomson Paediatric Centre. However, she points out that most children can solve their own problems if adults give them time to express their feelings without judging them.
5. Practise yoga and meditation
Practising yoga will teach your child about self-control and mental focus. Yoga encourages relaxation and calmness, which can help children who have difficulty focusing on their studies. Most yoga classes also teach meditation, a great technique your child can use to calm their mind at any time.
6. Try herbal remedies
Herbal remedies, which can be used to encourage calmness and relieve anxiety e especially helpful if children have difficulty falling asleep at night. Offer your child some chamomile tea before bedtime, so that they’ll get more restful sleep, which is vital for good mental health.
7. Consider acupuncture
Acupuncturist and herbalist Marie Amato notes that children are usually very receptive to acupuncture ― which can reduce stress and anxiety in both kids and adults. It can also help calm and relieve issues like insomnia in your offspring, which can have a negative impact on their mental health.
Parents have a lasting impact in children’s lives and how they respond to their children can have negative and positive consequences. So, do follow these strategies:
Lead by example
To encourage positive mental health in your children, take care of your own mental health. Not only will you be demonstrating good habits to your children, you will be in control of your own emotions and not let negative emotions come between you and your child.
It isn’t surprising that parents who have untreated mental health problems are more likely to have children with similar issues. A parent’s mental health issues often lead to unpredictability and inconsistency at home, which can take a real toll on the child’s mental well-being.
The activities and alternative therapies listed above can be very helpful for adults, too. If you have a mental health problem, be sure to seek the help of a professional ― for your sake as well as your children’s.
Build a good relationship with your child
Your relationship with your child plays a major role in his mental health. Building a relationship of trust between the parent and child encourages feelings of security, safety, and stability for the child, which are all crucial for good mental health.
Of course, providing for your child’s physical needs is an essential part of this. But you also need to be committed to keeping your word when you tell your child you’re going to do something. Don’t make empty threats, break promises, or be inconsistent in other ways because that harms the trust between parent and child.
It’s extremely important that you create consistency for your child as a parent. Children, especially young children, crave predictability. They want to know what they’re going to be doing next and whom they’re going to see. It’s also crucial that they know what the rules are, what will happen if they break them, and what the rewards for good behaviour are.
Ups and downs are a normal part of life, but if you notice that your child is struggling to handle stress on their own, it’s important to seek professional help.
If you’re moving, going through a divorce, or experiencing some other major change in your home life, this can give your kid a lot of stress. Some children experience anxiety, while others become withdrawn or act out while struggling to handle these intense feelings.
During times like this, ensuring a consistent routine and also expectations from your child is especially important. They need to know they can count on you to be consistent, no matter what else is going on in their life.
Encourage other healthy relationships, too
While a child’s relationship with his parents is crucial, other relationships matter, too. A child with a good mental outlook will have positive relationships with other children and trusted adults.
Be sure your child has ample opportunities to connect with other people. Encourage him to hang out with his friends and have sleepovers with family members. For younger children who aren’t in school yet, arrange playdates. It will also give you a chance to socialise with other mums, which is good for your mental health.
Encourage positive self-esteem
Your child’s self-esteem plays a huge part in how he feels mentally. As a parent, there are several things you can do to encourage positive self-esteem.
And, remember to be a good role model. Never put yourself down in front of your kids and take steps to improve your own self-esteem.
Ups and downs are a normal part of life, but if you notice that your child is struggling to handle stress on their own, it’s important to seek professional help. Take a proactive role in caring for your child’s mental health and act quickly as soon as you have concerns. Early intervention is important for getting them back on track as quickly as possible.
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