As parents, there many things that we need to help our children with but somehow helping them have a robust mental health almost never ends up on the list. This could be because we assume they are doing great anyway, it could be because we don’t know how to help them or more likely it could be because it's our blind spot. Whatever the reason be, children's mental health should never take a backseat. Just the way we have to work hard to get an athletic body, we need to consistently work towards a good mental health. It's not something you're born with and definitely not something that cannot be worked towards. Formative experiences are especially crucial to how our mental health turns out as adults.
On that note, here are 9 quick tips to boost children's mental health:
1) Encourage talking: Encourage children to talk about how they feel from time to time. Listen without judging, ask questions. Once this becomes a ritual, they will intuitively turn to you in troubling times.
2) Ensure they exercise well and have a healthy diet: Physical health and mental health are strongly correlated. Children should be made to exercise regularly, eat right, get sufficient rest, drink enough water and get some sunlight. These are all great ways to boost energy, mood and mental health.
3) Be generous with praises: Praise, praise and praise. Praise your child whenever they do something good no matter how small. By praising, you're showing your child how to think about themselves. It makes them feel good and builds confidence.
4) Teach them how to relax: Let your children turn to something enjoyable to help them take their mind off their problems. It may be playing outdoors with friends, listening to music, painting, writing or reading (this is why having hobbies is so important). Nothing better if you could join them in the activity as well. Happy parents, happy kids.
5) Share the secret of positive self-talk: Teach your child to talk to themselves positively. It changes the way they view things and helps them swiftly sail through adversities. For example, “Relax! I can do it”, “I am not going to let this bother me” and “I am ok”.
6) Be a positive role model: Children learn by watching their parents. If your child sees you dealing head-on with difficulties, they will imbibe your resilience. Show them that mental health problems can be handled in a calm and effective manner.
7) Encourage your child to build meaningful relationships: A mentally healthy child will have a number of relationships - with grandparents, cousins, friends and neighbors. Encourage them to make new friends at school, at after-school classes or any clubs they may be a part of. Having these fulfilling relationships can make all the difference in the world to your child’s mental health.
8) Build trust: Say what you mean and do what you say. A solid relationship with your kids begins with earning their trust. Establish trust by creating a sense of security. Children find mental stability only when they see predictability and structure.
9) Watch out for Red Flags: If you notice that your child feels sad or overly anxious about normal situations ( e.g. meeting new people), there might be a problem. A change in mood or behavior that lasts more than two weeks could also be a sign of an underlying problem. Stay alert, watch out and seek help from a registered therapist if required. Do not try to diagnose and treat by yourself.
All of this might seem a little overwhelming at first but know you can do it. Just take it one small step at a time. Happy Sunday!