Mental health used to be a taboo subject but is making big strides toward the forefront of awareness. As athletes and celebrities are opening up about mental health struggles and taking time off to deal with them, more and more people are gaining an understanding of what makes our brains tick. Adults may experience less stigma when it comes to the subject, but access is often difficult for children, teens, and adults. Education on how to help your kids with good mental health is part of parenting.
Why Mental Health Skills Are Important For Kids
From the time they are born, babies get regular physical check-ups. Pediatricians recommend these starting as a newborn, age 3-5 days, one, two, and four months, six and nine months, one year, 18, 24, and 30 months, and then yearly. Responsible parents are typically diligent about meeting these recommendations to ensure the baby is happy and healthy.
Mental health is just as important as physical health. So staying informed about your child’s mental health is important to avoid future problems like addiction and alcoholism. Good mental health in children results in positive thinking, feelings, and actions.
Five Essential Mental Health Skills To Teach Your Kids
Today’s parents are facing more decisions than ever about healthcare, education, and nutrition for their children. Navigating the muddy waters of mental health can be overwhelming and time-consuming. But knowing some easy skills to teach your kids that will benefit them throughout their lives can make it more manageable. Here are five:
- Build strong, healthy relationships – Teach your child what healthy relationships look like by exemplifying them. When they see you form solid friendships, romantic relationships and community bonds, they’ll be more likely to form healthy relationships themselves as they get older.
- Fight fair – Disagreements are a fact of life and a part of any healthy relationship. So it’s important to teach your child how to handle them. Learning to take a deep breath before responding, for example, helps to defuse anger and allows your brain a moment to think so the words you say are more accurate and less hasty. Also encourage your kiddo to consider other people’s thoughts and feelings before lashing out. Another fair approach to arguing is to repeat the other person’s concerns before responding with your own.
- How to cope with adversity – Learning how to master coping is a vital part of growing up and learning. So when your child is upset, teach them how to deal with it in a healthy way. Deep breathing, taking a walk, listening to calm music, meditation, prayer, yoga, kicking a ball, reading and journaling are all positive ways for children to deal with tough emotions.
- How to advocate for yourself – Self-advocating will extend into adulthood so it is an important part of growing up. Teach your child how to advocate for themselves by making certain you acknowledge their feelings first. Also, foster independence by allowing them to make their own decisions and doing things like ordering for themselves at a restaurant or purchasing items at a store. Teach them that it isn’t selfish or wrong to speak up for themselves. This skill helps kids feel heard and often provides solutions that wouldn’t otherwise happen.
- How to handle their emotions – Children need to understand emotions in order to regulate them. Instruct them on how to label those emotions so that when they surface, it doesn’t take them by surprise. For instance, you could say “I know you are hurt right now. Let’s talk about what we can do about that” or “You are really angry about not being able to go to the park and that’s okay. When you are calmer, we can discuss when we can schedule another park day.”
- How to cultivate healthy living habits – Healthy living is beneficial for many reasons, one of which is mental health. Teach your child to eat a balanced diet and make sugary treats or drinks a special occasion, not the norm. Exercise is also key in fighting off physical and mental issues. Help your child find interest in some type of movement. This doesn’t have to be competitive sports but could be yoga or swimming for pleasure. Doing this together as a family or with friends also builds relationships. Teaching your child to choose regular sleep pattern is another way to instill healthy living. Sleep is important in many areas of life but especially in controlling mental health problems.
With regular practice, these strategies will become second nature to your growing little human. Model good mental health skills such as taking care of yourself and making time to relax and recharge, and the eyes watching you will do the same. Well-adjusted kids are less likely to experience mental health problems in future.
caringforkids.cps.ca – Your child’s mental health
Sunshinebehavioralhealth.com – Recovery in a quiet and welcoming environment
caringforkids.cps.ca – Your child’s mental health
Self.com – Fighting Fair
nami.org – Self-Help Techniques for Coping with Mental Illness
Canr.msu.edu – Teaching children to be their own self-advocate