Many parents place priority on their children’s physical health, but what about their mental well-being? Just as it is important to feed your child healthy food, make sure they move their body regularly and get frequent check-ups at the doctor’s, it is equally vital to look after their mental health. Mental illnesses such as depression have been rising in children over the last several years. While some cannot be prevented, there are things parents can do to help their child’s mental health thrive for as long as possible. Read on to find out how.
Encourage creativity and play.
Space to play and create in a child’s life is important. It not only meets their need for fun but helps them think creatively and express themselves. Both of which are good for a child’s mental health. Experiment with activities they truly enjoy, whatever it may be: dance, art, writing, sport or acting, to name a few. This can be an outlet for them to explore emotions, particularly difficult ones, and encourage creative thinking to tricky situations.
Help them develop healthy self-esteem.
Establishing a strong sense of self-esteem from an early age is vital to good mental health later in life. You can do this by genuinely praising and encouraging them without overexaggerating, particularly on their efforts and not on things they cannot control (like appearances); giving them opportunities to be independent and accomplish things on their own; encouraging them to explore hobbies and develop new skills; and teaching your child talk to themselves in a positive way. It also helps to talk to yourself kindly; when children see their parents putting themselves down, they are more likely to mimic that behavior, too.
Establish healthy habits.
Teaching your child healthy habits is an investment that can last a lifetime and improve the overall quality of their life. It starts with the basic things; such as the importance of good nutrition, regular exercise, and a good night’s sleep. And it can then extend to mindfulness and gratitude practices. Even better is to incorporate these habits into your family’s time together and improve the mental health of everyone in the family.
Build trust through consistency.
One of the best things you can do to support your child’s mental health is to create a predictable environment for them to grow in. Establish consistent consequences for certain actions. By sticking to routines, you can begin to build a sense of trust, safety, and security in your child’s life. All of which are crucial to good mental health. Make sure you are consistently there for your child, particularly when he or she is cold, scared, hungry or angry, and be committed to keeping your word.
Teach them language to express their feelings.
One of the most important skills you can teach your child is the language to express their emotions. This can be done by exploring why they do what they do, especially when they react “badly”. As often the feelings underneath the actions are not bad. It is important for a child to know that just because they may feel negative emotions, does not mean it is shameful or wrong. By teaching them that all feelings are normal and healthy, they will develop a sound emotional intelligence, build more connected relationships and harness the ability to problem-solve in the midst of difficult feelings.
Sometimes, you may see signs and symptoms of mental illness and are concerned about the well-being and safety of your child, even if you are committed to these practices. Seeking therapy early on is crucial to treating problems effectively. Online counseling platforms such as BetterHelp provide professional, licensed and affordable therapists who will be able to help your child explore underlying issues that may be perpetrating their poor mental health.
By teaching your child some of the most important things in life – trust, honesty, creativity, health, and self-love – you can give your child a solid foundation to develop flourishing mental health and a life of wholeness.
Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health-related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with BetterHelp.com. With interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.