As a parent, you play a crucial role in nurturing your child’s mental health. The things you say and do and the environment you create at home can affect their mental well-being. To promote good mental health in your child, you must be aware of the early signs of mental health issues and know what you can do to help.
How Can You Nurture Your Child’s Mental Health?
Help your children build strong and caring relationships
Children and teenagers need to have strong relationships with their family and friends. A strong, healthy relationship entails excellent communication, respect, trust, affection, and problem-solving. It also involves sharing common goals and responsibilities, along with acceptance and commitment. One simple way of fostering a secure and caring relationship with your children is by spending time together with them each night around the dinner table.
Help them develop self-esteem
Helping your children develop positive self-esteem starts with making them feel safe and secured. Promote their self-confidence by assisting them to develop a positive attitude towards their abilities and encouraging them to help in problem-solving. Help your children feel good about themselves by showing them lots of love and acceptance. Praise them when they do a good job and recognize their efforts and achievements. Your child’s self-esteem will also thrive when you help them set realistic goals.
Encourage them to express their feelings
Children learn a lot from your modeling. When you expose them to a range of feelings and coping mechanisms, they will learn to be more aware of their emotions. Listen to your children and let them know that it’s okay for them to feel sad or angry, and encourage them to talk about their feelings. Maintain open communication between you and your child by asking questions and listening to what they have to say. A good time to do this is during dinner time. If your child doesn’t feel comfortable talking to you, find someone reliable and trustworthy whom your child can open up to.
Establish a healthy home environment
When discussing serious family issues like finances, marital problems, or illnesses with your children, be careful about the scope of information you will tell them. Children worry about these things much more than we realize.
Teach them how to deal with stressful situations
You must teach your children how to relax when they feel stressed out or overwhelmed with emotions. Relaxing can come in the form of breathing exercises, doing a quiet activity they enjoy, going for a walk, or spending time alone. Discuss possible solutions with your child on how to improve a situation and how to put it into action. Remember to avoid taking over the situation.
What Are the Common Causes of Mental Health Problems Among Children and Youth?
Mental health problems can affect anyone at any age. However, young people are placed at higher risk when they are involved in certain situations, including the following:
- A family history of mental health issues
- Problematic economic circumstances due to migration
- Indigenous children and youth who live in isolated areas and have limited educational and work-related opportunities
- Members of the LGBTQ community who experienced bullying or rejection from family and friends
- Significant life changes such as moving to a new city or school, parents’ divorce, separation from a caregiver, or serious illness or death of a loved one
- Facing trauma from abuse
- Substance use
What Are the Signs of Mental Health Illness in Children and Youth?
If you worry about your child’s mental health, observe how they act, think, and feel, and watch out for any changes.
Changes in the way they think
They often have negative thoughts and say negative things about themselves or blame themselves for things that are beyond their control. They also have a hard time concentrating, which results in changes in their school performance.
Changes in the way they feel
They overreact to situations and often have an overwhelming, intense emotion that interferes with their daily activities. Their feelings of sadness or withdrawal usually last for more than a week.
Changes in the way they act
They want to be alone often and spend their time daydreaming. They are quieter than their usual self, less energetic, and show little to no interest in physical activities or games that they usually enjoy. They cry easily over small things and have trouble relaxing and sleeping. They also become more immature, which can lead to difficulty in getting along with their friends.
Changes in their appearance
They have a sudden loss of appetite, vomit frequently, or use laxatives to lose weight. As a result, they lack energy and look and feel tired most of the time. They often complain of headache, stomachache, and other general pains. They exhibit nervous habits like nail biting or hair twisting.
Seeing one of these symptoms in your child does not automatically mean that he or she is suffering from mental health illness. However, if you’re concerned with your child’s mental health, we recommend that you seek professional advice. Don’t let shame or fear prevent you from getting help for your child. With the right support, you will be able to determine if your child has a mental health condition and explore the options that can treat him or her.
If your child or someone you know is suffering from mental health issues, please don’t hesitate to call Phyllis Tonkin, LCSW, at 713-668-6666 or 713-206-5156. You can also send an email at [email protected]. Rest assured that all your information is kept confidential.