7 Mental Health Tips For Children
Given the circumstances we currently find ourselves in, it is important now more than ever to pay attention to our mental health. With a constant barrage of stressful events around us, increased stressors of isolation, anxiety and possibly burnout, we must realise the impact of these circumstances on our mental health.
We consider kids to generally have a carefree life, free from the stress and turmoil that adults deal with. And while it is true that children are resilient by nature, it is equally true that children experience stress and anxiety too. The fact that they haven’t yet developed the capacity to process the incidents around them can make it difficult for them to stay calm or feel secure especially in the midst of stressful events. We must also help children build their mental health, from a young age. These habits will stay with them and only strengthen as they grow up.
Here are some helpful mental health tips for children.
1.Let them play:
We can never underestimate the importance of play in the lives of children. It gives them an outlet to expend their energy, express their creativity and build their imagination. With screen time becoming a convenient, entertaining and popular means of passing time, children don’t always get enough time to play gadget-free. Children need the movement and physical activity that play brings. Make it a part of their routine just like all the other important tasks of the day. Encourage them to take up a sport. As outdoors may not be possible right now, get them moving indoors. Some exercise, some play and plenty of dancing will work just fine.
Our children need to know they can come to us with their problems and their feelings. If we heavily criticize them or reprimand them for something that they’ve done, they are less likely to open up to us in the future. Actively listen to them when they come to you with their “little” problems, so they know you’ll be around for the big challenges that might crop up. Reassure them often that you are there to help and they are not dismissed easily. Validate their feelings and they will come to you when they need help. And most importantly, follow through with what you say, so they know you mean what you say. Having a relationship built on trust and openness will make them feel safe, loved and secure.
3.Break the cycle:
Perhaps we didn’t grow up in an environment where we could freely express our emotions. Maybe, we were told “good kids don’t cry” or “don’t be silly” when we felt disappointed or shunned for expressing our emotions. Our parents probably told us what they heard as kids themselves and with the best intentions and awareness they had. However, as we continue to learn about the effects of parenting styles on children, we can make more informed decisions as we raise the next generation. Apologize when you are wrong and makeup with your children when you lose your temper and yell. Show them that it is okay to make mistakes and that it’s normal to express their feelings and to ask for help. Good parenting doesn’t mean being perfect, it means we are open to learning from our experiences.
4.Build a strong support system:
Having healthy and strong relationships with multiple figures can build a good support system. While as parents, we nurture our relationship with our kids, we also need to help kids foster healthy bonds with other significant people in their lives. Give them the opportunity and make conscious decisions to help them bond with their grandparents, cousins, friends. This will give them a security blanket to fall back on in times of distress. Help them stay connected over video calls and phone calls, especially now, when isolation and social distancing are much needed.
5.Take care of your own mental health:
Our kids copy our approach to situations and problems. How do we react to stress? Do we feel anxious and flustered in the face of turmoil? Do we practice healthy ways of managing stress? Practising self-care sets a good example to our kids, creating a healthier and happier environment. If parents experience mental health challenges and leave them untreated, it can directly impact the wellbeing of the child. It can put a strain on family relationships and leave children feeling unsure or scared. So pay attention to your own state of mind and reach out for help if you don’t feel like yourself or notice changes in your sleep and energy levels.
6.Teach them stress management:
Despite all the efforts we put into raising our children in a comfortable and happy environment, it is inevitable they will experience some form of stress occasionally. Disappointment over a change of plans, not being able to meet their friends, losing a game they had hoped to win are just a few of the hurdles they’ll face. While the events may not seem stressful to us adults, they can definitely be challenging for our little ones. Our job as parents is not to take the obstacles out of the way but to help our children overcome them. We need to equip them with the means of handling stress. Observe what strategies work for your child. Some might find it helpful to talk to a friend, some react to humour, some do well with redirection. Deep breaths when they feel anxious, counting to ten when they’re upset or playing some music to relax, take your pick. And an effective way to teach them to manage stress is to model it yourself.
7.Foster healthy habits:
Start them young so it becomes a part of their lifestyle. The importance of having an early bedtime, limited screen time, a healthy diet, time outdoors, taking up a sport, getting a daily dose of fresh air and sunshine are the little healthy habits that can set the path to good mental health. Encourage kids to pursue hobbies. It will not only give them a creative outlet but also a means to de-stress and relax. Setting a predictable routine is immensely helpful in making children feel comfortable and collected. Children thrive on routine. This way, they know what to roughly expect out of their day. Schedule time for play, snacks, meals and stick to regular bedtimes.
Even with the best efforts, sometimes our children might experience stress and anxiety that we may not be able to help them with. When children experience distress and can’t express what they feel, they show us their emotions through their behaviour. When we find them being difficult, it usually is a sign of them asking for help. As annoying as we might find this behaviour that will trigger us to react, it is important that we are curious about why they are acting this way.
Reach out to a professional if you feel that your child’s behaviour or moods are interfering in their day to day activities or if it leaves you feeling overwhelmed. Do not be alarmed or assume it might be a long-lasting condition. Very often, it might be a small amount of stress that is causing your child to display certain behaviour that can be eliminated with the right help. It is best to get guidance on what your child is experiencing and how you can help them. Talk to your child’s doctor who can put you in touch with a specialist.
If you need an online consultation, reach out to our therapists. We are here to help.
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