Children and youth 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 child will tell you today, it’s not easy being a kid! They often deal with peer influence, competition and identity issues as they mature, all of which can play a role in shaping who they will become.
How to prioritize your child’s mental health
From a young age, it’s important that we instill in children and youths an understanding of and respect for mental health. This will teach them to not only prioritize their own mental state, but 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 mental health should play in your child’s life, and be willing to play an active part in teaching them how mental health contributes to overall well-being.
Take time to celebrate your children’s victories
It’s so important to take the time to celebrate your child’s successes. For some children, those successes might be the goals scored in their latest soccer game. For others, it might be as simple as time off the bench and on the field.
Regularly taking the time to recognize your children’s accomplishments is so beneficial for mental health and self-esteem. 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 strong emotions and may act on them before they know how to regulate themselves. Let your children know that these emotions are normal and that ignoring them actually hurts mental health, but guide them through methods of handling and responding to them in a way that is appropriate and productive.
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, always strive to set a constructive example of a parent who is open with their emotions, but not one whose actions are dictated by or come from an emotional response.
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 child’s diet and sleep.
When it comes to 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 boost overall mental health by watching what your child eats, it’s equally as easy to compromise health by consuming artificial flavors and ingredients or meals/snacks with excessive sugars and extra calories.
Sleep is even simpler to get right so long as healthy sleeping routines for your child are adhered to, including:
- Controlling light exposure – During the day, exposure to light is one of the factors that keep you awake, but when it comes time to head to bed, look to limit your children’s light exposure, especially in the form of night lights and blue light
- Putting the technology away – Blue light, emitted by devices like laptops and cell phones, reduces melatonin levels in the brain, one of the main hormones that promote sleep. Suggest a time for both you and your children to put technology away, and help them take the responsibility of holding everyone in the household accountable
- Staying away from caffeine – Even soda with dinner can promote alertness in children (not to mention the sugar high), actively working against their ability to fall and stay asleep
- Limiting 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. If they still need afternoon naps, try to put them down earlier so they don’t sleep late into the afternoon
- Concluding the evening peacefully – Look to conclude the day with your children by enjoying a relaxing activity like reading a book, listening to calm music, having your children take a relaxing bath, etc. It will soothe their mind and promote a state of relaxation likely to get them — and keep them — asleep.
While it can take time to instill these routines into daily life, the effort is well worth the benefit it will have on your child’s immediate and long-term mental health.
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 to ensure your children maintain strong mental health.
For continued support for yourself and your child’s mental health, reach out to The Light Program today by calling us at 610-644-6464 to learn more.