How to Nurture Your Child’s Mental Health

Parents play an important part in supporting and encouraging a child’s good mental health habits.

How can you improve children’s mental health?

Parents can nurture a child’s mental health by building a close relationship with them, providing structure and boundaries, fostering independence, encouraging social connections, teaching healthy habits and modeling positive behavior.

1. Be intentional and attuned

When parents are attuned to their child – meaning they are consciously aware of their child’s nonverbal physical and emotional needs and respond empathically to meet those needs – children develop a secure foundation from which their mental health can flourish. Children can sense if their parents are interested in them and if their parents approve or disapprove of them. Provide a secure base in which your child can safely experience their feelings, even before they can identify and verbally articulate them.

2. Balance closeness and compliance

A good relationship with parents is one of the strongest protective factors against mental health disorders. Look for everyday opportunities to lead with empathy and foster closeness. This can help create a healthy relationship – one that makes it easier for your child to come to you when they face a problem.

This applies to older children and teenagers all the more. They are more likely to comply with parental requests when they feel loved by and close to their parents.

3. Allow your child to experience distress and failure

Understandably, parents often want to swoop in and stop children from experiencing heartache or failure. However, those distressing experiences are key to building a child’s mental health.

As long as your child is safe, consider standing on the sidelines and being ready to support and encourage them when they need it most – instead of fixing a problem as soon as it happens.

4. Let children be bored

No play dates this week or next? No problem. Boredom, Children’s Health clinical psychologist and Associate Professor at UT Southwestern, Nicholas Westers says, is when creativity takes root. It’s when children learn how to manage conflict with friends and siblings, how to problem solve, manage time, engage their imagination, develop self-control and be independent. These are all key traits in building resiliency and supporting your child’s mental health.

5. Provide structure

It’s easier to deal with failures and struggles in life when we know that some boundaries and routines are in place. That includes boundaries at bedtime, limits on electronics, rules for playtime and expectations on how we treat others and ourselves. It is okay to allow for flexibility, but placing boundaries and structure communicates to your child that you love them and are invested in their well-being.

6. Encourage connections

Social health is a key part of our mental health. We are wired for connection. Building relationships allow us to learn how to be a better friend and learn critical social skills, such as reading and responding to nonverbal cues. That means balancing online video games with sending children outdoors to play with friends in the neighborhood.

7. Model good behavior

One of the most important ways parents can nurture their child’s mental health is to model healthy behavior. That includes being open about your feelings – without oversharing details. It also means showing how you bounce back from a mistake.

8. Make healthy choices

Our physical health plays a critical role in our mental health. Our mind and body are intricately connected, and healthy eating, exercise and adequate sleep have all been shown to protect against mental health disorders and improve mood.

Parents should continue to encourage and model healthy choices that benefit physical, emotional and mental health.

Excerpted from “How to Nurture Your Child’s Mental Health” from Children’s Health online health and wellness library. Read the full article online.

Source: Children’s Health | How to Nurture Your Child’s Mental Health, | © 2023 Children’s Health

Do you need someone to talk to? To schedule a free 30-minute Care Consultation or to get advice about your child’s or teen’s challenges, call or email a CHC Care Coordinator at 650.688.3625 or CHC teletherapy services are available now.

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