The importance of taking care of our mental health has really come to light in recent years. Previously mental health difficulties were highly stigmatized, and although things aren’t perfect now we’ve taken huge leaps in the right direction as a society. We understand that mental health and physical health are strongly linked, and many discussions are happening around mental health as a subject- with more resources being invested into this area. Workaround children’s mental health is still very much a growing subject, but we’re moving away from the outdated views that kids can’t suffer from mental health issues, or brushed off with the idea that ‘kids are resilient. Many of us have brought childhood trauma and issues into our adult lives which we still struggle with now, so we should all work on doing better for the generations that follow us. Prioritizing your child’s mental health is actually one of the most beneficial things you can do for them, as you set them up for a lifetime of success where they don’t need to overcome their childhood trauma. And are able to work through the stresses of life (which most of us have to deal with) using healthy coping mechanisms. Here are some ideas to consider.
Talk about feelings
As humans, we’re emotional creatures. We’re designed to feel a full spectrum of emotions and it’s normal and healthy to do so. Punishing children or making them feel guilt or shame for experiencing anger, frustration, fear or any other emotion doesn’t stop them from feeling these things. Instead, it causes them to hide their feelings, and over time this can lead to developing unhealthy ways to cope. Instead, speak about feelings, explain that it’s normal to feel this way at times, and help children to label their feelings. You can start young, simple statements like ‘you feel angry that your brother has taken your toy’ or ‘you feel nervous as it’s your first day of school’ help kids to explain the feeling when it happens again later on. This gives you a much better understanding of what’s going on in their mind and enables you to help them through.
Discuss healthy ways to de-stress
It’s easy to assume that children have stress-free lives, but that simply isn’t true. From starting school to dealing with their peers, starting new hobbies, and sibling rivalry there’s a lot that goes on in children’s lives; and their lack of life experience means it can be difficult for them to work through the stress these things can cause. For this reason, acknowledge your child’s feelings (even if it doesn’t seem like a big deal to you) and let them know what some healthy ways they can deal with them are. From relaxing bubble baths to journaling their thoughts, going on a walk outdoors, or having fun with a friend, these habits will lay the foundations for the ways they will deal with stresses in the future. If your child’s stresses seem particularly bad and you’re not sure how to help, consider some counseling. There are all kinds of resources for psychologists to help children, whether it’s dealing with exam stress or bullies, or any other issue.
Think about your own mental health
Finally, thinking about your own mental health and the way you deal with things can be useful. None of us are perfect, we all have our moments. But if your child constantly sees you fly off the handle whenever you’re stressed, raise your voice, or panic then this is likely to be how they will deal with it too. Working on yourself will not only help you but will allow you to be a good role model for your child as well.