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How to Nurture Mental Health for Children

How to Nurture Mental Health for Children

Identifying and providing for a child’s basic needs like food, clothing, and shelter may be easy. But identifying and dealing with child and adolescent mental development may be harder. You know the importance of mental health for children. However, do you know how to nurture your child’s mental wellbeing? Let’s discuss this critical issue in more detail.

Mental Health for Children

These days, mental health has become a prominent issue not just among adults, but among children and adolescents as well.

Data from the World Health Organization show that 10-20% of children and adolescents worldwide have mental disorders, many of which are left untreated.

Many factors can affect mental health for children such as:

  • a growing need to be independent
  • peer relationships and pressure to conform with target cliques
  • exploring sexual identity versus gender norms
  • emerging dependence on technology
  • quality of living conditions including socio-economic status
  • physical, emotional, and behavioral conditions

A mentally healthy child continues to be happy, well-adjusted, and emotionally-stable as she or he grows. However, as a parent, look out for some of these warning signs that your child may be undergoing some mental problems:

  • clinical or situational depression that shows as long-term sadness
  • social withdrawal, which leads to absenteeism and changes in a child’s academic performance
  • self-inflicted injuries
  • talking about wanting to hurt themselves
  • talking about suicide or death
  • changes in behavior, moods, or personality such as sudden extreme irritability
  • behavior that is harmful to the child or others
  • sudden changes in the child’s eating habits or weight
  • sleeping disorders
  • increasing instances of headaches or stomach aches
  • being easily distracted or having difficulty concentrating on tasks

How Nurture Helps Mental Health for Children

Here are some basic nurturing techniques that you can explore when dealing with a child and adolescent mental development.

Love from Family Members

This love needs to be unconditional. This may seem like a very unattainable goal. However, basically, it involves a love that does not depend on a child’s accomplishments. This is a love that is caring but realistic.

Confidence and Self-Esteem

Your child will make mistakes and suffer disappointments. These are natural events in any person’s life. And how you respond to these events has an affect mental health for children. Positive responses can generally help your child gain confidence and self-esteem. Consider these suggestions:

  • Instead of meting out unnecessary punishments, encourage your child to learn from the mistake. This does not mean that you cannot discipline your child any longer.

There are various discipline techniques that you can use depending on your child’s temperament: Reward good behavior even through verbal praise; point out natural or logical consequences; or take away privileges. Experts emphasize that an important part of the disciplining process is to explain the need for it, talking with your child about what needs to be done, and following through with the process.

  • Instead of imposing unrealistic goals, help your child set realistic goals that take into account their abilities and ambitions. As a parent, you will have a good idea of your child’s skills and potentials so you can be a good guide for your child.
  • Instead of being sarcastic, encourage your child to talk about her or his feelings. You can even share your own mistakes and disappointments and what you did to overcome them. This can make your child understand that no one is perfect.
  • Instead of focusing on the negative, encourage your child to find the lesson or determine the best method to bounce back from a disappointment. Go beyond the black and white or the yes or no. By using open-ended questions, you can guide your child to independently seek answers and learn lessons.
  • Instead of accusations, go for constructive criticism. This is important if your child is already an adolescent, who will likely be easily upset or sensitive to negative feedback.

Play

Play has a central role in mental health for children. Provide your child with plenty of opportunities to physically and socially interact with friends and peers, particularly through outdoor activities. Go to parks, community or mall events, or even neighborhood activities. On special days like rainy days or nationwide quarantines, you can be your child’s playmate.

Instead of watching television or playing video games, encourage your child to move through physical games like tag or dance, to be curious through exploration activities like gardening, or to analyze through mind games like Monopoly or Jenga.

Never underestimate the importance of play for your child’s physical, mental, and social development. Play offers a context for your child to develop cognitive skills, physical abilities, language and literacy skills, emotional perseverance, and social skills. Further, it helps your child to reduce stress and anxiety. Play’s mix of simple and complex rules allows your child to eventually navigate the rules of society.

Support from Other Caregivers

There is a reason why teachers are considered a child’s second parent. Your child spends an increasingly large amount of time at school. In this environment, teachers are the caretakers of your child. This does not mean that you have to leave everything to your child’s teachers.

Although they are trained to teach, not all educators are trained to deal with mental health for children. If you communicate regularly with your child’s teachers, then you can provide a more comprehensive, two-pronged system for your child’s mental wellbeing.

Safety and Security

The big world can be a scary place for your child. Providing a safe and secure home can alleviate your child’s fears. Your home can be the one place where fears can be discussed freely without criticism. Always remember that the fear may be very real and important to your child, so helping her or him navigate through the fear is important for mental wellbeing.

Key Takeaway

Nurturing mental health for children can be summarized to this: Be loving, encouraging, and reassuring instead of nagging, threatening, or controlling. Choose to be firm but kind. If you feel that you’re overwhelmed, don’t be afraid to consult your child’s pediatrician or a mental health professional near you.

Learn more about Child Health here.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

World Health Organization (2019). Adolescent mental health. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/adolescent-mental-health.

Mayo Clinic (n.d.). Mental illness in children: Know the signs. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/childrens-health/in-depth/mental-illness-in-children/art-20046577.

Mental Health America (2000). What Every Child Needs For Good Mental Health. Retrieved from https://www.mhanational.org/what-every-child-needs-good-mental-health.

WebMD (2019). Parents, Kids, and Discipline. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/parenting/guide/discipline-tactics#2.

PBS (2012). Giving Feedback: Seven Ways to Respond to Your Child’s Creative Work. Retrieved from https://www.pbs.org/parents/thrive/giving-feedback-seven-ways-to-respond-to-your-childs-creative-work.

NAEYC (n.d.). 10 Things Every Parent Should Know About Play. Retrieved from https://www.naeyc.org/our-work/families/10-things-every-parent-play.

Graham, A., Phelps, R., Maddison, C., & Fitzgerald, R. (2011). Supporting children’s mental health in schools: teacher views. Retrieved from https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13540602.2011.580525?src=recsys&journalCode=ctat20.

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Written by Ruby Fernandez Updated a week ago
Fact Checked by Cesar Beltran
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