Caring about our mental health should be a daily activity. Mental Health Week, which runs from May 4 to 10, is a subtle reminder to encourage everyone to make mental health a priority in hopes of improving your everyday life.
As parents and guardians, you play an essential role in the development of your child’s mental health just as you do for their physical, cognitive and spiritual health. Having positive mental health does not mean you are happy every day. What it does mean is you can realize your potential, and cope with the daily challenges while contributing to your community.
4 ways to support your child’s mental health
Build a strong and caring relationship.
- Spend quality time together, having fun, listening to each other talking about your day.
- When they’re talking, give them your full attention. If they want to talk at a challenging time, schedule a more convenient time where you can give them your full attention.
- Show a genuine interest in their interests. Help them discover more about their passion.
- Help them set realistic goals, whether academic or social so that they can experience success.
- Praise what they do well and recognize their efforts as much as achievement.
Listen to your child and respect their feelings.
- Teach them the language of emotions. It is crucial to be able to communicate our feelings appropriately, and that requires the vocabulary to do so.
- Teach them that there are no negative emotions. It is okay to have strong emotions such as anger or sadness, and we need to learn how to manage those feelings.
- Please keep an open dialogue about how they are feeling and why they have those emotions.
- Never minimize their feelings, validate them.
Create a positive, safe home environment.
- Monitor what they watch on various screens, including television. Pay attention to who they interact with on social media, including gaming sites. Set appropriate limits early.
- Daily routines help provide structure and a sense of security in challenging times. Routines for sleep, nutrition and regular exercise are important.
- Provide time for physical activity and family activities.
- Stay calm, even if what they are sharing is making you angry or upset. If we react strongly, they may not come to us the next time they have a concern.
Teach them how to solve challenges.
- Help them build their “problem-solving muscles” by helping them consider different solutions when facing a problem. Let them lead the problem-solving process and do not solve the problem for them.
- Explicitly teach them relaxation strategies (i.e. deep breathing, muscle relaxation, going for a walk) when they are calm, and then encourage them to use them when upset.
- Teach them that it is normal to have times of stress and times of struggle. That is regular life.
When it comes to promoting positive mental health, children and youth need guidance, instruction and positive role models. Modelling self-care, calm problem-solving and nurturing relationships are all part of our role as parents. Children are like mirrors. They reflect what they see in their environment.