Watching your child grow, and helping them to develop, is one of the great joys of parenthood. But while providing for your child’s physical needs is fairly straightforward, providing for their emotional growth, can be less clear.
Evidence shows that fostering a child’s emotional growth through strong family relationships and open and honest communication, has a positive effect on their mental health. Good mental health allows children to understand and manage their emotions, make smart decisions, develop socially, and learn new skills. Nurturing your child’s mental health from infancy will also prepare them for the many challenges that lie ahead: school tests; peer pressure; bullying; dating; and the other trials of growing up.
To provide a solid foundation your child’s emotional growth, practice these eight proven tips for nurturing a child’s mental health.
LEAD BY EXAMPLE
Children are very impressionable. As parents, you play a key role in shaping your child’s thoughts, opinions and behaviour, so it’s important that you demonstrate positive thinking and model healthy behaviour. Look after your own mental health; pay attention to how you communicate with others; and learn to manage your feelings of frustration and anger. Providing a positive example will give your child a healthy foundation for sound mental health.
SHOW THEM LOVE
Give your child boundless love and support and be affectionate. Feeling loved by your parents is vital to creating a sense of security and for building trust. By loving your child unconditionally, you teach them the value of trust, forgiveness, and consideration for others. And when children feel loved unconditionally, they’ll be more open and honest.
TAKE TIME TO LISTEN
Encourage your child to express their feelings, and create an environment where open communication is valued, and shared feelings are respected. Take the time to listen to your child’s worries and fears, no matter how trivial they may seem. When giving advice, use words and examples your child can understand. Encourage their questions and always be honest.
SHARE YOUR FEELINGS
Be open about your feelings. Talk to your children about what you were like when you were a child. Sharing the worries and fears that you experienced, helps validate your child’s feelings, and minimizes their anxiety. Be open about your current emotions too. Show them how you cope with feelings of sadness, anger, and fear. Expressing real feelings openly and honestly, will encourage your child to be more open, and to understand that fear and anger are natural and healthy emotions.
ENCOURAGE AND PRAISE YOUR CHILD
Be your child’s cheerleader. Tell your child that you are proud of them. Encourage them to try new things, help foster their talent, praise their accomplishments and accept their limitations. Be an active participant in their activities, help them to set goals, and reassure them when they have doubt. But also allow them to fail. It’s essential that children learn to cope with disappointment, and understand the importance of perseverance. The attention, support, and guidance you give your child when they’re young, will build the self-confidence and self-esteem they need for a successful future.
PRIORITIZE FAMILY TIME
Put down your phone, turn off the TV, and give your child your undivided attention. Eat meals together, read bedtime stories, play together, and plan activities that allow for conversation and positive engagement. When you make the effort to be fully present and engaged with your child it demonstrates to them that they are important, and that their thoughts and feelings have value.
EMPHASIZE PROBLEM SOLVING
Help your child to effectively problem solve, and teach them simple coping techniques to handle challenges. Problems left unsolved can take a toll on our well-being. Like adults, children can feel frustrated, stressed, and helpless when confronted with a challenge. Learning to meet those challenges with problem solving skills increases a child’s learning, self-esteem, self-confidence and independence.
Playtime is an essential component to the positive development of your child’s mental health. It contributes to their cognitive, physical, social and emotional well-being. Play is fun. It brings children joy, but it also helps them to be creative, learn to work in a group, and develop their problem-solving and conflict resolution skills. Play helps children discover their talents and passions creating confidence and self-worth.
Good mental health = happy, healthy children. The attention you give your child’s mental health today, will create a stronger, healthier, and happier adult tomorrow.