Keeping your children healthy and happy requires a focus on more than just their physical health. Your child’s mental health and wellbeing are heavily influenced by the environment in the home and the habits within your family. So how do you improve your children’s mental health? A few of the best strategies are covered below.
Ditch the Screens!
71% of U.S. parents are concerned that their kids are spending too much time behind the screen, and they may be right. Studies have shown that kids who regularly have access to more than 2 hours of screen time per day are more prone to anxiety and depression, as well as a whole host of other behavioral and developmental issues.
Instead of logging on, encourage offline alternatives such as getting outdoors, picking up a book, talking to a friend, or cooking dinner with mom, which are all much better (and healthier) uses of their time.
Having a chance to be bored also gives rise to creativity and fosters better connections between siblings and between children and their parents. (It’s not a bad idea to get the whole family involved in logging off, too.)
Teach & Model Self-Care
Healthy habits like participating in moderate exercise, eating nourishing foods, getting enough sleep, and knowing when to log off start with you. The same factors that help lift anxiety and depression in adults also make a difference for kids and teens.
Teach and Model Coping Skills
Similarly, stress management and other coping skills for difficult situations also start with you. Talking through a situation with a loved one, writing in a journal, and getting outdoors to clear one’s mind are all helpful ways that kids can learn to deal with a stressful situation.
In addition to teaching your kids how to identify and safely express their emotions, encourage them to foster relationships with extended family or others in your community, and work to build consistent routines in the home that can lead to a greater sense of stability and security.
Keep an Open Door
Let your child know that they can talk to you about anything on their mind at any time. Establishing an open line of communication while your kids are still young will benefit you both during the teen years and beyond. Knowing that they can come to you with any issue or problem is crucial to keeping your child’s self-esteem, social and emotional learning, and mental health intact.
Know The Signs
Catching the signs of depression or anxiety as soon as they begin to develop — and intervening early on — can go a long way towards making lasting improvements in your child’s mental health. Keep an eye out for these possible signs below:
- Changes in eating or sleeping habits
- Loss of interest in activities they once enjoyed
- Avoidance of certain people or places
- Loss of energy and motivation
- Slipping grades
- Physical symptoms like headaches and stomachaches
- Missing school
- Eating disorders
If your child is experiencing major life changes such as the divorce or remarriage of a parent, or difficult circumstances like bullying or chronic illness, or if they are exhibiting symptoms of anxiety or depression, counselling can help.
A mental health professional can evaluate your child and make recommendations for moving forward. Cognitive-behavioral therapy, talk therapy, and even family therapy may be recommended as part of your child’s individual treatment plan.
If you’ve exhausted all types of therapy and your child’s healthcare professionals find it to be appropriate, some medications for anxiety or depression have been approved for use in children and teens. Always handle the prescription and management of any medication under the care of a supervising physician or psychiatrist.