As a parent you are probably regularly coordinating your child’s medical appointments around their physical health, annual doctors visit, dentist, eye exam, etc. As well as focusing on offering your child healthy food options, signing them up for different activities to help them stay healthy and active, but how often do you think about finding ways to take care of your child’s mental health? Mental health can impact the way people think, feel, and act. Taking care of our mental health is just as important as taking care of our physical health.
An estimated 1 in 5 children will experience a mental health disorder each year. Although we may not be able to fully prevent mental health issues, there are ways you may be able to influence good mental health through the environment you create at your home by the things you say and do. Learning the early signs of mental health problems and knowing where to get help can also be beneficial.
Here are some ways you can help your child’s mental health:
Connection. Since early 2020 we have experienced many changes in our daily routines. One thing we have taken away is how important connection and relationships are. Helping your child build strong caring relationships is important to help them maintain a positive mental health. Children can develop coping skills through having caring relationships. Finding one-on-one time to spend with your kids can be helpful in building these skills and help them develop strong emotional connections. When a child knows they have support of a parent, sibling, teacher, or someone in their life it can help them feel empowered to seek guidance when a situation may arise in their life.
Having strong relationships can help your child develop resilience. Resilience is the ability to bounce back from stress, adversity, failure, challenges, or trauma. This is a skill that kids develop as they grow. Resilience is important to help children navigate stressful situations.
Consistency. Consistency can play a huge role in helping your child’s mental health. It is linked to how you are connecting with your child and how your family operates. Staying consistent with how you engage and respond with your children. Having a consistent routine and structure can help a child feel less anxious. Here are some tips on maintaining consistency in your home.
Listen. Labeling feelings and emotions can help your child make sense of what they may be experiencing. All feelings are important and talking through them can be very beneficial in helping your child understand what they are going through.
Coping Skills. Teach your child different skills to relax if they are feeling upset such as deep breathing, drawing, journaling, taking a walk outside, or playing with a pet.
Problem Solving. We all need help sometimes, so let your child know they have help. If your child experiences a difficult situation try brainstorming solutions to the problem with your child. Encourage creating a list to help your child weigh the pros and cons of a situation.
Lastly, one of the best things you can do to help your child stay mentally healthy is making sure you are taking care of your mental health as well. Taking time for yourself to destress and relax promotes a healthy environment for your household. It also models for your child a positive example of how to maintain and deal with stressful situations.
Jill Haupts, Outreach Coordinator for The Kim Foundation
Jill Haupts is the Outreach Coordinator at The Kim Foundation. She received her bachelor’s degree in Child, Adult, and Family Services from Iowa State University in 2016. Jill joined the Kim Foundation in January of 2020, coming from Des Moines, Iowa. Her previous experience includes volunteer recruitment and fundraising, as well as experience coordinating services and providing resources to adults who have a mental health diagnosis. Jill’s role in the foundation is coordinating event logistics, presenting and attending community fairs, as well as volunteer coordination and recruitment. She enjoys working in the nonprofit field and has a passion for advocacy and helping others.