Everyone knows the importance of good mental health, but how do you help your children achieve it? Here are some points to consider.
1. Give your child unconditional love.
Every child deserves and needs unconditional love from his or her parents and other family members. Love, security and acceptance form the bedrock for a child’s good mental health. Make sure your child knows that your love doesn’t depend on them getting good grades or being great at sports or other accomplishments.
Also let them know that it’s common to make mistakes when growing up, and mistakes will not diminish your love. When your child knows that your love has no boundaries, his or her self-confidence will grow.
2. Nurture confidence and self-esteem.
Help your children build confidence and self-esteem by offering praise for things they do. Encourage them to take the next steps to explore and learn about new things. Provide a safe environment for them to play and be actively involved in their activities.
Parents also need to set realistic goals for their children, ones that match the children’s abilities and ambition. As your child gets older, he or she can help choose goals that are a little more challenging and further test their abilities.
Avoid being critical or sarcastic. If your child fails a test or loses a game, give a pep talk to offer your assurance. Be honest with your child, but be gentle. Don’t shade the truth or gloss over your own failures or disappointments with little white lies. It helps to learn that parents are human and sometimes make mistakes. Encourage your child to enjoy the learning process. Trying new activities helps children learn teamwork, develop new skills, and build self-esteem.
3. Provide guidance and discipline.
Children need to play, explore and learn, but they also need to know that some behaviors and actions are inappropriate and unacceptable. As a parent, give appropriate guidance to your child and, when necessary, appropriate discipline. Be sure that discipline is fair and consistent in the family. Don’t change the rules to favor one child over another.
It’s also important for you to set a good example. Children can’t be expected to obey family rules if their parents consistently break them. When your child does something wrong, that’s the time to talk about their inappropriate behavior. Explain why you are disciplining your child as well as what the potential consequences of their actions may be. Do not attempt to control the child, but to give him or her the opportunity to learn self-control.
4. Ensure surroundings are safe and secure.
Home is the place where your child should feel no fear. Despite your best intentions, however, there are situations and circumstances where children do become fearful, anxious, secretive, or withdraw. Fear is very real to children. Try to find out what’s causing the fear and how you may be able to correct it. Signs of fear include changes in eating or sleeping patterns, aggressiveness, nervous mannerisms, or extreme shyness.
5. Encourage play opportunities with other children.
Children love to play, so provide your child with ample opportunities to play with other children inside and outside the home. While it’s fun, playtime also helps children learn new skills, problem-solving, self-control, and allows them to be creative. Running, jumping and playing tag and other vigorous physical activity helps children to be physically and mentally healthy. If your child doesn’t have any age-appropriate friends in the neighborhood, consider a good children’s program at community centers, schools, recreation or park centers.
6. Seek out encouraging and supportive teachers and caretakers.
You aren’t always around your children. They go to school and have sitters and other caretakers to watch over them as well. They’re also instrumental in promoting a child’s good mental health. Look for teachers and caretakers who are actively involved in the child’s development, and who offer consistent encouragement and support.
7. Teach your child resiliency.
Children with good mental health have the following characteristics:
- A sense of contentment
- Zest for living, laughing, and having fun
- Ability to deal with stress and recover from adversity
- Flexibility to learn new things
- Adaptability to change
- Ability to build and maintain healthy relationships
- Self-confidence and high self-esteem
Still, being mentally and emotionally healthy doesn’t mean that children never experience disappointment. While a part of life, disappointments can cause stress, sadness, and anxiety.
Here’s where the importance of resiliency comes in. A child with good mental health can bounce back from such situations without losing emotional balance. In fact, resiliency is all about emotional balance. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), resilience isn’t something you have or don’t. It involves thoughts, behaviors and actions that anyone — children included — can learn and develop.
As parents, just as you can teach yourself to become more resilient, you can also help your child learn and develop resiliency by:
- Accepting that change is a part of living.
- Making connections.
- Avoid seeing bad situations as catastrophes.
- Taking decisive actions.
- Working toward goals.
- Nurturing a positive self-view.
- Maintaining a hopeful outlook.
- Good self-care.
- Keeping things in perspective.