Children have a lot on their minds. Between free time and family time, schoolwork and building new friendships, their schedules can sometimes rival ours. And as any youth will tell you today, it’s not easy being a kid! Children deal with peer influence, bullying and identity issues as they mature, all of which are formative in shaping them into who they will become.
From a young age, it’s important that we instill in children an understanding of, and a respect for, mental health. This will help them not only prioritize their own mental state, it will also help them look out for the mental wellness of others, and identify ways to properly address any mental health concerns they may experience in the future. As a parent or guardian, it’s important that you take the time to understand the role which mental health should play in your child’s life, and be willing to play an active role in helping them understand how mental health contributes to overall well-being.
Take time to celebrate your children’s victories
It’s so important that as a parent, you take the time to celebrate your children’s successes. For some children, those successes might be the goals scored in their latest soccer game. For others, that success might be simply getting playing time.
Regularly taking the time to recognize your children’s accomplishments is so beneficial for mental health. At the same time, children need to understand that their limitations are not signs of weakness. As a role model, take the time to appreciate both the strengths and weaknesses of your children, as each contributes to their overall identity.
Teach your children to embrace their emotions
Children will experience emotions. Pain, sadness, joy, regret, even anger are regularly experienced by individuals of all ages. Let your children know that these emotions are normal, and that ignoring them actually hurts mental health. Experiencing emotions is both regular and healthy.
Your children should be allowed, and encouraged, to openly discuss their emotions in a constructive manner. On the same note, when those emotions occur, it’s important to draw a line between the emotion and the reaction. While emotions are natural reactions to life’s events, we do have a choice when it comes to the actions we take as a result. Even if your child’s anger or sadness is justified, encourage them to respond in healthy, productive ways. As a role model, exhibit a constructive example as a parent who is open with their emotions, but one who doesn’t allow their emotions to dictate action.
Promote healthy daily routines
So much of maintaining strong mental health lies in forming and upholding a strong daily routine. And that routine starts with two very important factors: your diet and your sleep.
When it comes to your diet, look to prioritize natural, real ingredients. This means a daily intake heavy in both fruits and vegetables, characterized by healthy meal sizes and portion control. Just as it’s easy to yield a boost in overall mental health simply by watching what you consume, it’s equally as easy to compromise health by consuming artificial flavors, or meals/snacks with excessive sugars, extra calories to incredibly long ingredient lists.
Sleep is even simpler to get right. Unfortunately, it’s even simpler to get wrong. Here are just a few tips to prioritize when it comes to getting a good night’s sleep:
- Control light exposure. During the day, exposure to light is one of the factors that keeps you awake. However, when it comes time to call it a day and head to bed, look to limit your children’s light exposure (especially blue light).
- Put the technology away. Hand-in-hand with limiting light exposure, it’s so important that both you and your children put the technology away as sleep time approaches. Blue light, emitted by devices like laptops and cell phones, reduces melatonin levels in the brain, which is one of the main hormones that promotes sleep. Suggest a time for both you and your children to put technology away, and launch into a bedtime routine that helps your body recognize the time of day.
- Stay away from caffeine. In addition to the fact that caffeine can be unhealthy for children, it also actively works against your ability to fall and stay asleep.
- Limit naps. Especially for younger children who are prone to longer napping, just understand that naps during the day make sleep during the evening more difficult to reach.
- Conclude the evening with an enjoyable activity. The last activity of the day can either put children into a state of relaxation, or it can do the exact opposite. Look to conclude the day with your children by enjoying a relaxed activity – reading a book, listening to calm music, having your children take a relaxing bath, etc. It will put children – and honestly, you as well – into the right mental mindset to easily sink into sleep.
Your child’s mental health matters
The mental health of your child matters. Just like you’ll take every precaution to make sure your child doesn’t injure themselves physically, it’s important to take steps ensuring your children maintain strong mental health.
And sometimes, making your child’s mental health a priority sometimes means first making your own mental health a priority. The Light Program helps you pursue treatment for a wide variety of mental health challenges and disorders, for anyone struggling with issues like stress, depression, anxiety, trauma or self-harm. If you think that you could benefit from mental health treatment provided by The Light Program, call (610) 644-6464 or schedule your first appointment today.