These Are The Best Ways To Help Your Child’s Mental Health
Children deserve a healthy start in life and this rule applies to more than their physical needs. Your child is a complete being with a spirit, mind and emotions that require care.
However, you might feel a bit in the dark about what to do if you aren’t a licensed therapist. Fortunately, you don’t need any special training. These are the best ways to help your child’s mental health.
1. Meet Their Physical Needs
People discuss physical and mental health as two separate phenomena, but the two are irrevocably linked. Consider this: one out of every five children is obese, and more are overweight. Carrying too many excess pounds increases their risk of conditions like Type 2 diabetes, but that isn’t all. Unfair as it may be, it can also make them targets for bullying and the associated mental health disorders.
Exercise is essential for developing bodies and minds. It helps your little one maintain a healthy weight while improving their cognitive abilities. For example, independent play encourages them to find creative ways to overcome challenges — how can they climb that slide backward without slipping to the bottom? Solving such problems also increases their sense of agency, that they can make positive changes in their world through their actions.
Nutrition also matters. For example, certain mineral deficiencies can worsen depression symptoms. There are tons of conflicting nutritional information out there — you’re best keeping it simple.
Whenever possible, feed your children whole foods close to their natural form. Make their diet as plant-based as possible, including fruits and vegetables in every hue to ensure sufficient antioxidant intake. Stay away from processed foods containing white flour, sugar and trans fats, which can promote allover inflammation — including in your child’s brain.
Finally, sleep is essential to your child’s mental health and cognitive development. Pay attention as your little ones become teenagers. They require more shuteye during this time but may stay up later and rise accordingly as their melatonin levels adjust. Be as gentle and flexible with bedtime as you can, allowing for school schedules.
2. Teach Them to Identify Their Emotions
Mindfulness is the ideal natural remedy for many mental health disorders — but schools don’t teach it. As a result, many children don’t understand the forces compelling their maladaptive behaviors. They might not even have the correct labels to put on their emotions. They only know that they feel bad, making them want to act up and cause trouble.
Teach your children to mindfully identify their emotions. For example, if your little one comes to you crying, you might say, “Oh, I can see you’re upset. What happened? Are you feeling frustrated? Misunderstood and indignant, maybe a little sad?”
You can also buy feelings charts that help the tiniest tots. Using books is yet another technique — you can point to a character in a picture book and ask your little one to name the emotion on their face. Doing so also helps teach empathy, a skill this society needs in droves.
3. Practice and Model Effective Coping Mechanisms
Your child looks to you for how to navigate the world. It isn’t enough to know how to name big feelings — learning how to manage them is a crucial aspect of emotional intelligence.
However, you probably have noticed that your children imitate your actions better than follow your words. Therefore, teach them effective coping mechanisms by modeling them yourself.
For example, talk about the need for quiet time to calm yourself and encourage independent play in bedrooms as interventions for misbehavior instead of ordering them there as a punishment. You might say things like, “Mommy’s a little upset right now, so I’m going to lie down quietly for a few minutes and read or color until I feel more in control. Then, we’ll talk.”
When your children see you using positive coping strategies, they’re more likely to follow suit. Other ideas include introducing your child to yoga and meditation — schools that have done so have seen positive behavioral results.
4. Listen and Validate Their Experiences
Think about the last time you faced a crisis. How did you feel when you confided in someone, only to have them downplay your struggle with an, “Oh, c’mon now, it can’t be that bad?” You probably felt quite invalidated, maybe even a bit offended.
Your children are no different. A schoolyard spat might sound like a minor issue to you, but it can monopolize your child’s mental state. Instead of telling them to “buck up” and “not get so upset over nothing,” help them process their emotions and determine the best course of action.
5. Provide Unconditional Love
What would you do if your child came out as transgender? Many children discover their gender identity at young ages, and most of them do not change their minds over time. Would you offer them the same unconditional love?
Children need to know that their parents always have their back to form a secure attachment. Feeling unloved can create abandonment issues that haunt their mental health for a lifetime. Please let your children know that while you might not like when they misbehave, you will always love them no matter what.
The Best Ways to Help Your Child’s Mental Health
Protecting your child’s health only begins with providing food, shelter and medical care. You also have to nurture their most important organs, their minds.
Embrace the five best ways above to help your child’s mental health. By doing so, you help them thrive and create a more emotionally safe world for all.
Get Daily Wellness
You might also like…
- by Mia Barnes 7 MINUTE READ
- by Varun Pahwa 9 MINUTE READ
- by Neil Seligman 7 MINUTE READ
- by Mia Barnes 7 MINUTE READ
- by Mia Barnes 9 MINUTE READ
- by Dr. Carmen Harra 18 MINUTE READ