How to Foster Good Mental Health in Children

Fostering good mental health in your child is as important as helping them keep physically fit.

Most parents are diligent about their child’s food, immunization, schoolwork, and doctor’s appointments.

But, how seriously do you take their mental well-being?

In this guide, we’ll provide actionable tips to help you keep your child as mentally healthy as possible.

What is Good Mental Health?

According to clinical psychology, good mental health is when a child can experience a variety of emotions, without feeling distress.

A child with good mental health is able to manage uncomfortable situations, persevere, and move on from failure.

As a child ages, he or she may exhibit different levels of coping capability. For instance, a 3-year-old child may have a harder time managing new situations than their 10-year-old sibling.

Statistics About Children’s Mental Health in Australia

  • Around 314,000 Australian children between the ages of 4 and 11 experience a mental disorder
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and anxiety disorder are two of the most common mental health conditions among children
  • Astonishingly, about 50% of Australian children suffering from mental health conditions aren’t receiving professional help

Actionable Tips on Fostering Good Mental Health in Children

Take Care of Your Mental Health

As a parent or guardian, one of the most important things you need to do is take care of your own mental health.

According to research, there’s a higher probability of a child developing a mental health condition if a parent has a mental health issue.

This means if you or your partner are experiencing any symptoms, talk to a doctor.

Foster Healthy Relationships

A parent should have a healthy relationship with the child, but it’s not enough.

Children also need to have connections with other relatives and friends.

Relationships help them develop social skills and make new friends.

Teach Stress Management

Experiencing some stress in routine life is inevitable for a child. In fact, it’s good for their mental development.

What’s important is how your child deals with everyday stress. Teach your child healthy stress coping mechanisms.

Spend some time understanding your child’s personality. Every child is different. One may find solace in writing a journal, while others may feel better after talking to a friend.

Make Time for Play

Playtime isn’t just for fun. It helps with creativity, problem-solving skills, and even self-control.

It also allows parents to spend time with their kids.

Moreover, by spending time with their age fellows, children feel a sense of belonging and learn social skills.

Plus, adults need some fun time with their kids too. So, even if you’re a busy individual, dedicate some time to this activity.

Make Healthy Choices

Healthy habits can keep your child’s body and mind in good shape.

For a child, developing these habits tends to be easy.

Staying away from bad habits is as important as developing good ones.

Teach your child to make healthy choices like:

  • Eating healthy
  • Exercising regularly
  • Having a good night’s sleep

In addition, incorporating mindfulness exercises into the daily routine is found to improve mental health.

Develop Their Self-Esteem

Teach your child to develop self-esteem by:

Providing Genuine Praise

This means focusing only on realistic praise and staying away from exaggerated compliments.

For instance, instead of saying “You’re the smartest kid out there”, praise their effort by saying “Good job doing X”.

Letting Them Make Their Decisions

Children feel good when you trust them. Allow your child to do stuff on their own. For instance, the next time you teach your child how to make a sandwich, let them make one themselves.

Let them make mistakes. More importantly, show them it’s normal to make mistakes.

Give them control. They’ll feel good about themselves, have more confidence, and develop self-esteem.

Common Mental Health Issues and Their Symptoms

Children can experience a wide range of mental health issues.

Here’s a list of some of the most common mental health issues in children:

  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
  • Behavioural issues
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Autism spectrum disorders (ASD)
  • Eating disorders
  • Schizophrenia
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

While diagnosing a condition requires professional involvement, parents/guardians should look out for the symptoms.

Common symptoms that your child may be developing a mental health disorder are:

  • Persistent sadness
  • Avoiding social interactions
  • Loss of weight
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Having a hard time concentrating
  • Extreme irritability
  • Declining academic performance

Some children are more self-conscious than others, which is normal. But, watch for some red flags that differentiate normal struggles from concerning behaviour. For instance, your child is overly conscious in normal social situations. Or, a change in mood lasting more than a couple of weeks.

Note that it’s not just about exhibiting a particular symptom. It’s about exhibiting it for more than a normal duration.

Recognising when behaviours are out of the ordinary, or continue for an excessive amount of time, can help determine when to seek help.
Recognising when behaviours are out of the ordinary, or continue for an excessive amount of time, can help determine when to seek help.

When to Seek Professional Help

If you’re concerned about your child’s mental well-being, consulting your doctor will be the best thing to do. Tell them whatever concerns you.

As mentioned earlier, most children don’t even get the professional help they need.

Remember that for a child it’s never too early to see a mental health professional.

Seeing a specialist will not only help the child but also help parents cope with the situation effectively.

Common treatment options include:

Psychotherapy: This involves addressing the concerns by talking with the child. For younger ones, the talk may revolve around playtime or games. Medication: The health care provider may prescribe a medication as part of the plan. Don’t forget to discuss the benefits and side effects before proceeding with drug treatments.

Conclusion

To foster good mental health in children, parents or guardians need to be a consistent part of their lives.

Every child is different. You need to understand where normal behaviour ends and concerning symptoms start.

If your child is acting strangely, don’t hesitate to see a mental health professional. Most children don’t receive the help they deserve. Often, mental health conditions become worse as a child ages.

Don’t let any fear or embarrassment from getting your child the support they need. With proper intervention, your child will learn to take care of their well-being.

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