Parents have so many different goals and dreams for their children. But as someone who struggles with mental health issues, in large part because of my childhood, my biggest goal as a parent is to raise emotionally healthy kids. And it isn't easy. The biggest chunk of my monthly budget goes on emotional health, but it is worth it. Here's some tips on how to improve your kids' mental health.
As parents, when presented with what you would like the most for your child, most of us want him or her to be both happy and healthy. Mental health is an important part of that because it encompasses both the emotional and physical well-being we seek for our child. Here we outline some effective ways you can navigate how to improve your child’s mental health.
EXPRESS FEELINGS WITH CREATIVE OUTLETS
One of the best ways that you can help to improve your child’s mental health is through the outlet of creativity. Hobbies and things that inspire, empower and relieve stress are high on the list of bringing something fun into your child’s life that can assist with their mental well-being. They also serve to give your child the ability to express feelings more freely, without judgment.
Music is a great way to evoke emotion and allow your child to be in tune with feelings. Music education is easy to obtain and even teach in your own home. No matter where you live - even if that’s a tiny apartment in a bustling big city like New York - there are some great options for music and instrument lessons in your NYC home that you can utilize to assist your child in this creative outlet. The language of feelings is achieved successfully through music, and your child will be able to explore and share their feelings in such a way that doesn’t scare him or her or have them keep their feelings bottled up. Shutting down is detrimental to mental health, so it is essential to have an outlet to express emotions.
ESTABLISH A ROUTINE WITH HEALTHY HABITS
Another great way to manage stress on mental health is through the creation of a routine that equips your child with healthy habits. Such things include keeping your child physically healthy with some activity that requires movement, keeping a diet rich in good foods, and getting good sleep. Habits that your child does regularly are effective at giving your child something to look forward to, or something that is non-negotiable because it is that important to have (like sleep).
Managing stress with routine and healthy habits are great, and this also ties back to having a creative outlet. Hobbies such as writing in a journal, or even just having a long talk with a good friend should be encouraged to keep up within your child’s routine.
SET AN EXAMPLE: YOUR ACTIONS MATTER
Do not forget as the parent you are the first and most admired role model for your child. The habits, creative outlets, hobbies, and stress relief activities and things that YOU do matter in setting the example for how your child will improve his/her mental health. Give yourself some care and be mindful of how you are dealing with stress effectively because the things you do are going to affect how your child handles situations as well.
PROVIDE PRAISE AND RAISE SELF-ESTEEM
Another great way to improve mental health is through praise, which boosts confidence and self-esteem. Be sure that when you do this you are giving your child the most genuine praise, and not being unrealistic. For example, if you say something like “you are the best kid ever” that is not going to help your child in a school setting, to believe that he/she actually is the best kid. Don’t let the compliments be exaggerated or give your child a compliment on something that he or she has no control of. Be sincere and look at the praise as a way to help your child’s development.
When you give your child an opportunity to do something independently, this is the perfect time to prepare some true praise when the child can achieve something on his/her own. Another example would be to turn negative self-talk into something positive. When your child says something like “I can’t do that” or “I’ll never be good enough at this”, take this as a way to help teach your child what he/she can do to be better, or break something down to make easier. Don’t let your child sabotage an ability before having some patience and practice to reach achievement.
HAVE FUN AND BE TOGETHER
Everyone needs to have fun. Achieving happiness would not be possible without it, so this is an important tool in obtaining good mental health. Make sure that when creating your routine and healthy habits, you give your child an opportunity to play. Doing it as a family and creating that togetherness is even better. If you can set aside specific time to fully engage with your child, you show him or her that they are an important part of your life. Seeing their parent let go and push worries aside gives your child a push in that direction, so your child can relax and let go of stress, too!
LISTEN, LISTEN, AND LISTEN SOME MORE
Part of parenting involves us reading signs and paying attention to the behavior of our child. Sometimes, children can speak to us more strongly through actions rather than words. Be sure you are still listening to your child in those moments, and picking up on social queues. Look out for certain warning signs if your child seems more sad or anxious, and try to have a conversation about it. If you can sense that there are troubles or problems, the sooner that you can address it, the better your child’s mental health.
It’s not always easy as parents to pick up on these clues, either. Don’t be afraid to talk to teachers at school, or even other family members who see your child often to gauge behavior and if you should be concerned.
SEEK OUT HELP IF NEEDED
Parents, don’t ever feel that you can’t ask for help if you need it. The last and most important part of being sure your child’s mental health is strong is not being fearful of asking for help when you need it. The pressure of parenting can seem extremely difficult at times, but it is not something that you should incur as a burden. You are never alone - reach out to your support group whether it is family or friends, and if you need to, find professional help if you truly are fearing for your child’s mental health. Your child cannot and will not get better without receiving the necessary help needed if he or she is suffering. There are many resources and support groups for parents struggling with this as well.
Stay proactive about keeping your child mentally healthy. Set a good example and praise your child for great accomplishments to keep self-esteem high. Have fun whenever possible and take time to focus solely on your child. And remember: if you do need to seek out assistance from a professional for your child’s mental stability, this can be of great help to you too.