Encouraging Your Child's Mental Wellbeing
The past few years have been rough on everyone. When it comes to kids, they may have been hit the hardest. As a concerned parent, encouraging your child’s mental wellbeing is more important than ever before.
Understanding Mental Health
No matter our age, mental health plays a key role in our overall wellbeing. In essence, mental health affects how we think, feel and behave on a day-to-day basis. It can even have a serious impact on our relationships and physical health.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that 1 in 5 children in the U.S. experience a mental, behavioral or developmental health disorder. When it comes to a child’s mental wellbeing, the most commonly diagnosed disorders include:
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD,
- and Behavioral disorders.
What Can a Parent Do to Encourage a Child’s Mental Wellbeing?
Parents play an important role in a child’s mental wellbeing. Kids see their parents or guardians as authority figures, confidants, friends and role models. This relationship, when properly used, can help guide a child out of harm’s way or away from negative thinking.
The first step for parents is to realize how important a child’s mental wellbeing can be. Don’t dismiss complaints as a simple as a “bad day” or “bad mood.” Kids are surprisingly complicated and have a rich inner life. The lessons they learn at a young age will be carried with them for the rest of their lives. Poor mental health and coping mechanisms are not an exception here.
Communication is Key
As a parent, the most basic way to encourage your child’s mental wellbeing is to provide a positive environment. The home should be a safe, nurturing place where a child can feel free to express any feelings or situations. A child should never be made to feel like their emotions aren’t valid or heard.
Through careful listening, parents should learn to pick up on any potential red flags. These include things your child outright tells you, plus any number of nonverbal cues. Kids can often sense if their parents are actually listening or concerned about them. This is a good reason to put down the phone and turn off the television or computer when they are opening up to you. They shouldn’t feel like they are competing for your attention, and they can usually tell when they are. They also know if you approve or disapprove of certain actions.
A child should always be encouraged to share how they feel. This is true for when they are feeling sad as well as when they are angry. It is natural to be angry. A concerned parent can help guide a child through these feelings in a calming way.
When it comes to keeping the conversation going, don’t feel as though you need to let the child do all the talking. Ask questions and keep the conversation going. Give them the runway to speak. Above all, simply being there as a sympathetic ear can go a long way.
Extra Tips From Around the Home
Social media and other screens are often a significant influence on a child’s mental wellbeing. Screen time should be limited and monitored. Parents only have so much influence. Their peers and media are powerful forces. Make sure to keep close tabs on what they are watching, reading or playing. Additionally, be aware of who they might be interacting with on social media and online games.
Finally, encourage your child’s mental wellbeing by first taking care of your own health. Share your feelings with your kids. Through your own actions, teach your kids how to calm down when they feel upset. Teach healthy reactions to stressful situations. This could include deep breathing, doing something calming (such as a quiet activity they enjoy), taking some time alone, or going for a walk.
As a final note, never feel like you have to do this alone. Enlist professional help when necessary. Please note that if your child or teen talks about suicide or harming themselves, call your doctor or local mental health crisis line immediately.