As the focus on physical health has turned to prevention and making good choices, so too should our view of mental health, especially when it comes to our children.   With the rise of teen mental health problems, we must acknowledge that children and young people are feeling more stress than ever.  Tending to our children’s mental health should be as much of a priority as their physical health.  Parents need to be aware of their child’s mental and emotional needs in order to promote well being and happiness.  Lets look at 5 ways parents can enhance their child’s mental health and well being.

1. Develop emotional resilence in your child.  Children need to learn how to bounce back after a setback.  Coping skills and  managing emotions are essential for your child.  Children need to be recognized not just for their outcomes but their efforts as well.  Children also need to be encouraged when struggling, despite not being successful.  Give children the opportunity to be independent.  When children complete tasks independently and work through difficult situations without your assistance, they grow in confidence.   Also, asking questions about their interests and activities promotes confidence and self esteem as children feel valued.

2.  Be a positive role model.  You are your child’s best teacher.  Parents who take care of their own mental health will have healthier children as well.  When parents practice positive self care their children will too.  If we make sleep, nutrition, exercise and social engagement a priority we are showing our children how to take care of both their physical and mental health.

3.  Talk to your pediatrician. And not just about physical illnesses.  If you are concerned about your child’s mental health and well being make it a priority to speak to your child’s doctor as soon as possible.  Children need to be taken care of when they are struggling emotionally, as well as when they have a physical illness.   Too often parents wait until their child’s behavioral issues become unmanageable before they seek advice from their pediatrician.  Pediatricians are generally a positive resource and can steer parents toward appropriate professional help.

4.  Develop and encourage an emotional vocabulary.  Children need the words to express their feelings, even if those feelings are less desirable ones such as anger and frustration.  Kids develop emotional awareness when they can put emotions into words.  Self expression promotes greater emotional health and takes away the stigma associated with verbalized negative emotions.  When a child is allowed to express themselves without guilt or fear of judgement, it builds trust and deepens the parent child relationship.

5.  Teach heathy ways to manage stress. Identify specific things kids can do manage their stress; talk it out, journaling, and problem solving.  Also, strong social connections  do wonders to boost mood and provide comfort to children.  Encourage you child to make friends and participate in group activities.   And if you feel your child would benefit from talking it out, find a professional your child feels comfortable with.

When we make mental health a priority, our kids feel good about themselves and are empowered.  This sets them up for a lifetime of success in all areas of their lives