Fostering your child’s mental health
Fostering your child’s mental health
Mental health in children
Mental health is as important as physical health and we all have come to realize the importance of mental health during this tough time. As adults, we can cope up and take care of our mental health needs but our children may need our guidance in understanding and taking care of their mental health. Mental health in children would mean reaching developmental and emotional milestones and learning healthy social skills and adopting healthy coping mechanisms. Children who are mentally healthy, have a positive quality of life and can function well at home, in school, and in their communities. By setting the right example for our kids, we are ensuring that they stay mentally healthy for life.
Why it matters?
When we talk of stress amongst kids, it is not surprising to hear things like, ‘Why will children have stress?’ ‘Why do we need to put this in their heads?’ Well, if you think your kids are too young to understand anything or feel any stress then it is important for you to understand that we all have mental health, and all of us feel, think, and perceive the world around us in our own way. With children, it is even more delicate as they have no control over what they are absorbing. And they are still learning to cope up with the things around them.
Stressors among Children:
- Lack of emotional support
- Constantly being compared
- Lack of recreational activities
- Lack of social life
- Academic pressure
- Death of a loved one
- Parental conflicts
- Experiencing or witnessing violence
Signs that your child is experiencing stress
- Crying easily or feeling sensitive
- Getting angry
- Withdrawal from family and friends
- Struggling with attention and concentration
- Changes in appetite
- Changes in sleep patterns
How to help?
Teach them about Emotions
Introducing your child to different emotions using an activity or flashcards or even visual cues can help your child prepare how to manage their feelings. Understanding different emotions and correctly identifying them is a battle half won. Once your child identifies their emotions, it will help them to express that emotion easily too.
Encourage all feelings
All feelings are valid. And that’s what your child needs to feel from you, If children feel like parents are not receptive towards feelings of sadness or anything negative, they will stop showing those feelings to not upset their parents. Just like we need validation from friends and families, our kids need it from us. It’s important to let them know that negative feelings are valid too and that’s it is okay to not be okay.
Equip them with coping mechanisms
Coping mechanisms are what helps us to cope up with stressors in life. When you are feeling anxious or jittery or just tired, you would probably go for a walk or listen to some music to calm down. Similarly, kids also need go-to things that they can try when feeling overwhelmed. Introduce your children to different activities and let them choose what they like to do when they are stressed.
Set time for non-academic activities
It’s easy to get lost in the academic race and forget that our children need some time to do things like playing and just being. Don’t wait to reach a point where they throw a temper tantrum and start getting antsy. Ensure you give them enough breaks and encourage other activities like dancing, singing, painting, or playing an instrument.
Encourage self-care in the routine
Just like we adults need self-care in our routines, our kids need it too. For adults, self-care can be a good nap, an hour of yoga, a shopping spree, or just a spa. Similarly, we need to gift our children with self-care ideas too. When you teach a child about self-care, you are essentially making them self-sufficient and independent emotionally. They will always go back to these self-care tools in times of distress. It’s an investment, really.
Ensure physical activity
Physical activity is a sure-shot way of boosting your mental health. It is a well-known fact that when we indulge in any form of physical activity, our body releases endorphins also called ‘happy hormones’. They are responsible for making us feel good right after a workout or a dance session. So make sure you get your kids moving!
Talk about your feelings
When you talk to your child about feeling sad or having a bad day, it makes it easier for them to talk about theirs. As adults, we often refrain from crying or emoting negative feelings in front of our children in fear of scarring them. But it is actually very healthy to show your feelings in front of your children as long as it is not hurting them. Watching their parents go through negative feelings will only help them navigate their feelings too. Remember, you are the role model so your approach towards mental health is what they will adopt too.
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