If you're like most parents, you're probably very diligent about taking your kids to their well-child visits, getting immunizations, offering nutritious food, and helping with their schoolwork. How often, though, do you think of taking care of your child’s mental health?
A child’s mental health is just as important as their physical health, particularly when it comes to dealing with stress, behaviour, and academics. The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 1 in 5 children experience a mental disorder in any given year. And while not all mental health issues can be prevented, you can take steps to help keep your child as mentally healthy as possible.
What can you do to keep their mental health in check?
One of the best things you can do to keep your child mentally healthy is take care of your own mental health. Not only will you be modelling the habits that improve the mental health of your child, but you'll also be creating a healthier environment for your child.
Remember, kids look to parents to know how to deal with stressful and anxiety-provoking situations. Make sure you not only address any mental health issues but also take time to relax and de-stress.
Your kids learn by watching you. So, make sure you set a positive example of how to deal with stressful situations and maintain good mental health.
When parents have untreated mental health issues, children are likely to develop mental health problems of their own. This means that if you are feeling down, have lost energy, or notice changes in your eating or sleeping habits, you should talk with your doctor. These symptoms could mean that you're struggling with depression or anxiety.
Keep in mind that untreated mental illness may make family life inconsistent or unpredictable. It can also affect your ability to discipline your kids and may strain your relationship with your partner or other family members. When this happens, it can take a toll on your child's psychological well-being. What's more, children are at an even greater risk of developing mental illness when both parents have mental health problems. So, if you or your partner have a mental health problem, get treatment. Research shows when a parent receives therapy or medication to address mental illness, children’s mental health symptoms improve as well.
1) Create a sense of belonging.
Feeling connected and welcomed is essential to children's positive adjustment, self-identification, and sense of trust in others and themselves. Building strong, positive relationships among students, school staff, and parents is important to promoting mental wellness.
2) Build Trust
Your relationship with your kids plays a major role in their mental health, and a solid relationship begins with building trust. One way to establish trust is by creating a sense of safety and security. This means meeting your child's physical and emotional needs by taking care of them when they're hungry, thirsty, hot, or cold, as well as when they're scared, anxious, or sad. And by all means, do what you say and say what you mean. Your kids need you to be consistent, honest, and caring. Find ways to demonstrate that you love them and that they can trust you to keep them safe and healthy.
3) Promote resilience
Adversity is a natural part of life and being resilient is important to overcoming challenges and good mental health. Connectedness, competency, helping others, and successfully facing difficult situations can foster resilience.
4) Educate staff, parents and students on symptoms of and help for mental health problems.
Information helps break down the stigma surrounding mental health and enables adults and students to recognize when to seek help. School mental health professionals can provide useful information on symptoms of problems like depression or suicide risk. These can include a change in habits, withdrawal, decreased social and academic functioning, erratic or changed behaviour, and increased physical complaints.
5) Foster Healthy Relationships
The relationship kids have with their 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 with friends and neighbours. Even if you’re the type of parent who loves to spend alone time with your little ones, give them the opportunity to connect with other people too—especially their best friends. Maintaining these relationships can make all the difference in the world to your child’s mental health. If you live far away from loved ones, get creative and do what you can to encourage your kids to connect with them. Arrange a virtual visit with grandparents or encourage kids to use Skype or FaceTime to connect with friends who don't live nearby. Although virtual interactions are less than ideal, they still help kids maintain their relationships with others.
Content Head, Manas