We know the importance of teaching our kids about their physical health. We teach them to take their vitamins, brush their teeth, and live a life that will keep them physically healthy. However, it’s equally important to teach our kids about mental health. Here are a few ways to get started.
Make All Feelings Allowed
When a child is crying or yelling, it’s easy to dismiss the response as overly dramatic. However, that’s a mistake. Instead, teach kids that all feelings are valid, even if all reactions to those feelings are not. Help your kids learn to name their emotions so they have a vocabulary to use when they are in distress.
Don’t equate anger with being crazy or crying with wanting attention. Simply ask your child what they are feeling and help them learn to express it in a healthy way. This goes a long way in teaching your kids that they have feelings but that doesn’t mean they are their feelings. Feeling anxious or angry does not define who they are, it’s just something they experience.
Stop the Stigma
If you grew up in a household where mental health issues were stigmatized, end that cycle now. Give your kids a safe place to express what they are going through without fearing judgment. Make discussions about anxiety and depression a normal part of health talks, and let your child know that suffering from mental health problems is not a failure.
It’s also a good idea to point out what it might look like if someone is struggling with mental health issues. This will help your child evaluate their own feelings and also help them look out for others who are having problems and need help.
Get a Professional Involved
Taking care of mental health is important, so get a professional involved early. A trained psychologist can help your child deal with mental health issues and teach him how to deal with problems as they arise. Seeing a professional can also help children who have trouble truly understanding the importance of their mental wellbeing. Another adult can often help a child understand and listen when they won’t take advice from a parent.
Dr. Ramani Durvasula offers advice on how to care for your mental health and how to teach your kids to do the same. Advice from a professional can help the entire family learn more together.
If you want your kids to develop habits that boost their mental health, model the behavior for them. Make sure to let your kids hear you using positive self-talk instead of berating yourself when you make a mistake. Teach your kids to meditate, and let them see you prioritize your mental health. There are many mental health practices that you can do to model healthy behavior to your children. Meditation, daily hygiene practices, eating healthy foods, and having a balanced social and working life are great long-term examples to set.
Tell your kids that you work out, get enough sleep, and choose a healthy diet to help you alleviate mental health problems. It’s also a good idea to tell them when you seek help for mental health. If you take medication or go to a therapist, don’t hide that information from your children. Normalize talking about and prioritizing mental wellbeing by example.
Take a Holistic Approach
Teach your kids that their mental health can be affected by a variety of factors. This will help them figure out what tools to have ready to use when they are having a challenging time. Though it’s not always possible to pull yourself out of a mental health slump without professional help, there are a few habits that might help the low times feel a bit less extreme.
Teach your kids to eat a balanced diet, prioritize quality sleep, and move their bodies every day. Yoga, meditation, and journaling are also great ways to help kids keep big feelings in check. Teach your kids that our bodies and brains work together to keep us physically and mentally functional. Continue to reinforce these lessons and ideas by helping them realize when they feel sluggish or upset due to a mental or physical factor. By helping them recognize what and when they are feeling down can help them stay resilient throughout their lives.
Teach your kids about mental health early to help them combat problems in the future.