5 Ways to Support Children's Mental Health

Updated: Feb 8


Mental health is an important topic for all ages, and it's especially crucial for children. Luckily, there are various ways parents can support their children's mental health. This includes being proactive about mental health, promoting positive self-esteem, setting limits, role modelling mental health activities, and seeking help if needed. By being mindful of these five ways to support your child's mental health, you can help them live a healthier life both mentally and physically.



1: Be proactive about mental wellbeing


Mental health is just as important as physical health, and it's important to support children's mental health in any way we can. In the same way that we need exercise for our physical health, it’s good to start exercises at a young age that support children’s mental wellbeing.


One activity that builds mental resilience is gratitude and sharing the good moments from the day. Being grateful, even for the small things helps to train our mind to filter our world for the good experiences and helps us feel more able to cope with less positive experiences.


To help your child with gratitude, build a daily habit to ask questions that allow them to recognise the positive emotions such as:


What was your favourite thing that happened today?

Who did you show kindness to today?


For teenagers, you may find they are less open to talking about their day. Try sharing something positive from your day to start with and then approach the subject of their day. This will feel more conversational for them and less like an integration that many teenagers often say they feel.


Remember teenagers are far more astute at knowing if you are asking just for the sake of it, for example, if you ask ‘how was school’ when they get home each day. It can be easier for them to open up if you ask more specific questions about their day, so they know you have paid attention to what they have said before. You know your child best so if they don’t want to talk then you know not to push it, but you may want to revisit how they are feeling at a time when they are more open to conversation.


2: Promote a positive self-image and self-esteem.


Children with a positive self-image are more likely to have a healthy mindset. You can help children build up their self-esteem by praising their accomplishments and positive qualities. Remember self-image is not just how we feel about our physical body but how we feel about who we are and what we contribute to those around us. At a very early age children start to shape their thoughts about who they are from the messages they hear from adults and older children in their lives.

Ways to help build their self-esteem include:

  • Praise effort rather than just results. For example, if your child is not the best at sports, but you can see they really try – tell them how proud you are that they are determined and how you can see they have improved through practice.

  • When you talk about a child's positive qualities, look for a balance between; skills, academics, how they make others feel, how they interact with others. This helps children appreciate all aspects of who they are.


3: Setting limits and boundaries


Unfortunately, we can all have too much of a good thing. Learning about limits and boundaries can help children not only prepare for self-regulation as adults but can support the development of their mental well-being.

For example, playing video games, even games designed for young children whilst they can help develop skills, can also be addictive. Each time a child plays and wins, or gets a reward their brain gets a dopamine hit, too much of this can lead to a lack of sensitivity to dopamine which means we need more of the activity to feel the positive effect. Setting limits around potential addictive activities such as this including social media use can help avoid that dopamine dependency. It's all about balance so build in calm and quiet time to counteract the stimulation.



4: Role model mental health activities


One of the most influential ways to support children’s mental health is to role model good mental health activities yourself. Children learn through what they see others around them doing (modelling). Schools know the importance of activities that support mental health for children and teenagers and most schools now have a wellbeing programme. However, if your child/teen see’s those activities modelled by the adults around them at home this can be even more beneficial. Here are some mental well-being activities you can do with your child:

- A nature walk

- A gratitude jar

- Mindfulness breathing exercise for children (there are lots on YouTube)

- A worry box (a place they can post their worries)

- Mindfulness storybooks such as Mindful Monsters by Sylva Fae, Find Your

Confidence: Activities for positivity, mental wellbeing and building

resilience by Alice Harman

- Journals for children and teens – such as the Happy Self Journal


5: Seeking help when needed


For parents, it can be difficult to know when to seek help for a child's mental health issues. When you notice your child is feeling unhappy and low for a prolonged period, or if there are any other serious concerns about them such as risk-taking behaviour or a significant behaviour change then it's time to seek professional help. Your doctor should be a good first referral point who can help direct you to other services if needed. In the UK, Children, and young people’s mental health services (CYPMHS) are provided by your local authority.


Other sources of useful information for parents are:

Parenting Smart by Place2be

YoungMinds

Mind


Please note, I am not associated with any of the resources mentioned above. These are recommended simply as resources I have found helpful.


 

Hypnotherapy For Children and Teens


Hypnotherapy can be a useful approach to helping children and teenagers with mental wellbeing. As a hypnotherapist experienced in working with children and teenagers, I use mindful exercises and meditation techniques to help children and teens with issues such as anxiety, fears and phobias, and self-esteem. You can read more about hypnotherapy for children here.

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