This is a brief guide for parents, guardians and carers to work with their children and teens in helping them keep their minds healthy, aware of the importance of mental health and also to offer help and advice should you become concerned that your child or teenager is struggling with their mental health.
Why is good mental health important for children?
Mental health is critical for young and old alike. In children and teens, good mental health is the cornerstone of their ability to feel positive about themselves and the world around them at school and at home. By enabling them to confidently engage in positive relationships with friends and family and ensuring they have the skills to understand and cope with the challenges that strong emotions can bring.
What are the mental health challenges children can face?
We all have to deal with strong emotions from time to time, and children are just as likely as adults to experience sadness, anger, loneliness, and fear. If they are unequipped to understand and handle these emotions and without help and support, unchecked, long term exposure to negative emotions can lead to depression and anxiety. This, in turn, can start to affect their everyday lives, relationships, grades at school and in some cases even lead to substance abuse such as drinking alcohol or taking drugs.
If you think your child might be experimenting with drugs, alcohol, or if you just need some help or advice with behavioral issues, you can get support from professional counseling services such as those at Ignite Teen Treatment.
What can you do to support your child’s mental health?
As your child grows, they will encounter challenging scenarios in their life such as moving schools, the loss of a loved one, relationships ending, separation or divorce of parents, and different children will experience these events in different ways.
These events are often outside of our control, but we are all in control of the tools and choices we make in dealing with them. Here are a few ways you can help your child to deal with their emotions and retain or regain a healthy mind.
Always communicate: In the same way you encourage your child to eat a healthy diet of fruit and vegetables and to be honest about where they are and who they’re with, also try to encourage them to be honest about their feelings. Positive communication and the ability to ask for help when they are feeling overwhelmed is so important.
Set a good example: Children do what they see, not what they’re told so make sure you are leading a mentally healthy life yourself so they can follow your example; connecting with people, eating and sleeping well, not abusing substances and being in control of tricky emotions (especially anger). A good role model is crucial.
Keep an eye on their social media use: The way people communicate on their smart devices is changing how relationships work. We know social media can have a dramatic impact on a child’s sense of identity and confidence; try to help them limit their screen time and focus on real-world relationships too. Set a good example here and always be present yourself. Good communication cannot happen if everybody is starting at a phone.