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How to Improve Children's Mental Health

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How to Improve Children's Mental Health


As a parent you regularly take your child to well check-ups to receive immunizations offer nutritious food to keep him healthy and read lots of books to develop his vocabulary. How often though do you think about how to take care of your child’s mental health?


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If you are like many adults it’s probably not often. However a child’s mental health is just as important as her physical health particularly when it comes to behavior and academics.

It’s estimated that one in five children experience a mental disorder in any given year according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And while not all mental health issues can be prevented you can take steps to help keep your child as mentally healthy as possible.

Take Care of Your Mental Health


One of the best things you can do to keep your child mentally healthy is to take care of your own mental health. Not only will you be modeling the habits that improve mental health but you will also be creating a healthier environment for your child.

When parents have untreated mental health issues children are more likely to develop mental health problems. Children are at an even greater risk of developing mental illness when both parents have mental health issues.

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A parent’s untreated mental illness might make family life inconsistent or unpredictable. It can also affect a parent’s ability to discipline the children and may strain a couple’s relationship those things take a toll on a child's psychological well-being.

If you have a mental health problem get treatment. Research shows when a parent receives therapy or medication to address mental illness children’s symptoms improve.

Build Trust


A child’s relationship with a parent plays a large role in a child’s mental health developing a feeling of safety and security starts with building trust between parent and child.


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This means ensuring your child that you are going to meet both her physical and emotional needs. This includes taking care of her when she’s hungry, thirsty, hot or cold as well as when she’s scared or sad.

Be committed to doing what you say and saying what you mean. Empty threats, broken promises and inconsistent care will make it hard for your child to trust you.

Foster Healthy Relationships With Others


The relationship a child has with her parents is vital, but it’s not the only relationship that matters. A mentally healthy child will have a number of relationships with other family members such as grandparents and cousins as well as friends and neighbors.


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Even if you are the type of parent who loves to spend alone time with your little one give him the opportunity to connect with other people. Take a night off and allow your child to have a sleepover with grandma or his cousins.


Arrange playdates with neighbors or kids from school as well remember how important your childhood best friend was to you at a young age? That relationship can make all the difference in a child’s mental health.

Be Consistent


The importance of being consistent can’t be overstated children crave a predictable environment, understanding what activity they are going to do next whom they are going to be spending time with what consequences will be if they break rules and what privileges they will receive for good behavior.

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Whether you have moved to a new city, or you are going through a divorce chaos and big changes can be difficult for kids. It's common for them to withdraw, grow anxious or begin acting out when they are struggling to deal with their feelings. Establishing a routine staying consistent with your discipline practices and ensuring your child understands what’s going on in his daily life.

Teach Your Child Healthy Ways to Manage Stress


While it’s important to protect your child from traumatic events the best you can trauma can contribute to mental health issues you can’t prevent your child from experiencing stress. Stress is part of life.

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Disagreements with friends being cut from a sports team, and failed homework assignments are bound to happen at one time or another give your child the skills he needs to deal with those circumstances.

While one child may get stress relief from writing in a journal another one may want to call a friend when he is stressed out. So proactively identify specific things your child can do to keep his stress levels in check when he is dealing with tough times.

Establish Healthy Habits


A healthy diet, a good night’s sleep and plenty of exercises are not just good for your child’s physical health they are essential to her mental health too. Teach her to develop healthy habits that will keep her body and her mind in good shape.

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There’s a lot of research that shows mindfulness and gratitude can also have a big impact on mental health. So you might want to incorporate those into your daily lives and in the process you may improve the whole family’s mental health.

Develop Self-Esteem


Helping a child develop their self-esteem which can give a significant boost his mental health, is 2 fold for a parent: First you want to do your part in boosting your child’s self-esteem. Second you must teach your child how to develop his own self-esteem.

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Here are some ways to help your child develop healthy self-esteem:

  • Provide genuine, realistic praise. Saying things like “You are the
    est kid in the whole school” won’t help your child develop healthy self-esteem avoid praising things she can’t control like how she looks or how
    she is. Instead praise her effort and steer clear of exaggerated compliments.
  • Give opportunities for independence. Kids feel better about themselves when they are able to do things on their own. So whether you are teaching your child how to dress himself or you are showing him that you trust him to make his own grilled cheese sandwich kids feel good about themselves when they are able to demonstrate competence.
  • Help your child develop healthy self-talk. When your child says something like “I will never be good at math” it might be tempting to say “Of course you will.” But that won’t help him develop a healthier inner dialogue. When your child says negative things about himself ask questions like “What could you do to get better?” or “What’s the evidence that’s not true?” Help your child draw healthier conclusions.
  • Encourage your child to develop new skills. Help your child explore her talents and interests. Get her involved in activities and encourage her to work hard to get better.
  • Be a good role model. A child that sees a parent constantly putting themselves down or doubting their own worth is more likely to mimic that behavior. If you struggle with self-esteem issues take steps to improve your self-esteem so you can be a good role model for your child.

Play Together


A child that is healthy both physically and mentally needs to play. Truthfully adults need play too This is the time to put aside work chores and other obligations and focus solely on your child which shows him that he’s worth your precious minutes.

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While playing with your child, you’ll not only build a relationship but you will probably find yourself relaxing too and seeing a parent have fun and let go of worries can assure a child that she can do that as well.

Be on the Lookout for Red Flags


Some children are naturally a little self-conscious or a little more pessimistic than others. That’s not necessarily a issue. However there’s a line where normal struggles turn into a reason for concern.

If you noticed signs that your child feels sad or overly anxious about normal situations like going to school or meeting new people, there might be a problem. A change in mood or behavior that lasts more than 2 weeks could be a sign of a problem. 

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Be on the lookout for social problems, academic issues, or family troubles. Difficulty functioning in those areas should be a red flag. 

Talk to your child’s teacher or caregiver to see how he’s acting in school is he unable to concentrate sit still or focus on the task at hand? How are his grades? Is he mean to or physically harming other students or even animals? These are all signs that your child might need to see a professional mental health provider.

Before you get too worried, though remember that the problem might not be too serious or long-lasting. Sometimes a little bit of stress like the birth of a new sister or brother can cause a child to display a few concerning signs but it usually subsides.

Seek Professional Help


It's estimated that only 21% of children with a mental health issue actually get treatment. That means the vast majority of children with mental health problems aren't getting the help they need.

It may look like a drastic decision but there is no age too early for a child to see a mental health provider. In fact it may even behoove the whole family to attend family counseling if just one child is displaying some symptoms of poor mental health.

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Not only can it help improve your child's mental health but it can also provide resources and support to the parent who might be struggling, too.

Be proactive about keeping your child as mentally healthy as possible. But if you see signs of a problem talk to your child's physician about your concerns. Early intervention can be key to treating problems as effectively as possible. 

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