Our children are just individuals as we are. The only difference is they are younger in age with limited experience and are yet to learn how to handle their emotional health. What is your responsibility as parents when it comes to promoting good mental health in children? Undoubtedly, your responsibility is to nurture a child’s emotional health most positively and healthily. Some might ask why mental health is more important than caring for physical health. Let me tell you there is not one without the other. The mental health and physical health of every person go hand in hand. If your mind is better, your body will feel better. Alternatively, if your body is healthy, your mind will be healthy.
Children are going to grow up and carry on with their own lives and have their share of success and failures in life. Our knowledge and experience might help them a bit. However, what will help a child, in the long run, is emotional health. We may not be there forever, but something we have helped them learn will always be there. How we nurture the child’s mental health at home is like the roots of a tree.
“When the root is deep, there is no reason to fear the wind.” – African Proverb
There are these amazing and the most simplistic ways you can foster good mental health in children. I think every parent must be doing at least half of it. Significantly I hope after reading this you will try to inculcate most of these with your child.
How to Nurture Your Child’s Emotional Health
Our patience will achieve more than our force
I believe every parent would say that their patience level has increased after having a child. Yes! That’s true! It has happened to me too. I have a lot more patience now than I had before as a child. Why does this happen? We know our small child has just come into this world and is dependent on us for everything. Our love guides this patience. We nurture a newborn baby with the utmost care.
So as your child enters toddlerhood, they become a little independent. Eventually, there will be times when they won’t listen to us and we lose patience. What does that mean? More importantly, as your child grows into a teenager, there are many more power struggles. These are the times when our patience needs to show up more than ever before. Lack of patience in parents can pressurize the child in negative ways. Be patient with your child as much as possible. I won’t say every time because we are human beings after all. When your child watches you being patient in most circumstances that is how they will absorb that trait from you. Children learn most things by looking at you. Don’t you agree?
Love your child no matter what – Best Multivitamin That Nurtures A Child’s Mental Health
Unconditional love is what a child needs and what every child deserves. I say unconditional because it is amazing what your love can do for your child. Every mother must have felt it at some point in time. It’s all-consuming and the purest form. No expectations, no regrets. A child loves you without any expectations and any regrets. Have you ever seen a child go mad for more than a minute?
Children need this kind of love and care every day and every moment. Sometimes, situations can make you angry or disappointed with your child. It can be their mistake or fault. But never withhold your love from your child. Consequently, discipline is a must. However, it needs to be done with love.
Give a hug, kiss on cheeks, or cuddle every now and then
Young children thrive on physical touches from their parents. There are scientific and sometimes miraculous reasons for hugging and cuddling with children. It releases oxytocin and it helps children form a connection with their parents. If you have noticed, your distressed child will calm down once he comes into your arms. How kissing the boo-boos helps make it better!!
When your child is having a tantrum or a meltdown, try to maintain at least minimum physical contact like holding their hand or hugging them if they allow it. If not, it is okay. Ask them once they calm down. My son does not like me hugging him when he is angry or having a meltdown, however, he lets me hug him once he has calmed down a bit, and then once he hugs me he calms down completely. He would be ready to talk like civilians now.
A happy home and family environment is crucial to nurture your child’s emotional health
What kind of home do you like to come back to? Of course, I believe, a calm, happy, and family home. So children need the same kind of home to be thriving in. A happy home makes happy children! I always love to give an example of nature. How does nature nurture the seeds of a plant? It beautifully cushions the seeds inside a pod surrounded by the most beautiful petals. To sum up, the seeds are the future of the plant or let’s say the next generation! I think we need to take this inspiration and create a similar happy and warm environment for good mental health in children.
Make sure a child’s basic necessities are met
Whenever a child is hungry he is more irritated and cranky. Similarly, tiredness and exhaustion can cause such emotional reactions in children. Try to make sure your child’s basic needs like hunger and sleep are met to avoid tantrums and meltdowns. Whenever a child is unable to regulate his emotions or feelings, it becomes a tantrum or a meltdown. So for your child’s mental health, help them understand and fulfill the basic needs of their body. Let them know that not fulfilling these basic needs on time can lead to distress.
An established routine is the key to bringing structure into your child’s life
Children thrive on routines. A child is not born with any routine or regulations relating to their mind of the body. Parents help them build routines as an infant becomes a toddler and then as they grow. The basic routines every parent has for the children are morning and night routines. Help your child build a routine as they grow. Build routines around play like hydrating yourself before you leave and have a bath once you come back home after the play. Establish soothing and calming nighttime routines like dinner, bath, reading a book, foot massage, and then sleep. These routines and structures help them understand what to expect and how to react.
You need to be happy to nurture your child’s mental health
You can say you want to foster good mental health in your child. However, it will not happen if you are not happy around your children. I believe strongly that children observe and understand your energy. If you are unhappy, your child will be unhappy. If you are cranky, most probably your child will be cranky too. You need to model happy behavior around your child. By modeling, I mean being happy inside and showing it outside.
“If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.”– Jack Kornfield
Have deep and meaningful conversations with your child
Every day make sure you sit down with your child and have meaningful conversations with your child. If your child is old enough to understand, have deep and meaningful conversations. If you have a baby, you can still have deep and meaningful conversations with them. It is crucial to talk to your baby. This encourages a child’s language development and cognitive development. As they say “Conversation is the food for the soul.”
Reserve exclusive quality time for children every day
Life has become busy. Children, work, home, pets, etc all demanding your attention. This makes it so difficult to divide time between all these responsibilities. However, it is very important to reserve some time for your child every day doing what they would like to do with you. Make this an everyday ritual to have a special quality time with your child every day. Children thrive on their parent’s attention, love, and care. Make this time about them and you. Ask them what they would love to do. Some children prefer book reading, some prefer talking, some prefer cuddling and some prefer playing. During this time keep all the distractions away. Keep your phone away farther and on silent.
Choose and Offer Healthy Food and Healthy Choices Often
Healthy food is good for the mind, body, and soul. Children pick up their eating habits around the house. If you eat healthily, children will eat healthily. If you choose healthily, children will choose healthy (at least once or twice). As I said children do not have self-regulation. They might choose unhealthy at times. This is okay and acceptable. But if everybody around eats healthy, they are bound to eat healthy too. On the contrary, if you prefer unhealthy food and expect your child to eat healthily it is not going to happen. If you prefer them to make healthy choices and not do so yourself, you are not setting a good example.
Model a healthy lifestyle that includes exercise.
A healthy lifestyle is a must for good physical health and good mental health. What does a healthy lifestyle include? Regularly exercising and moving your body, treating your body right by stretching, getting the flow in your body with yoga. For children, you need not expect them to exercise with you, but they need to watch you exercise so they understand the importance of it. For a child playing in the park, running around, cycling is enough exercise. As my son likes to quote “Play is my work and exercise! It makes me sweat!”. However, I notice my son exercising for 5 minutes during my 30-minute exercising sessions. That’s more than enough for me now! A healthy lifestyle is crucial to nurture a child’s mental health.
Be present for your child when they need you to nurture your child’s emotional health
Always be present for your child whenever they need you. I am not just talking about young children here. I am talking about your children no matter how grown up they are. There are days I still need my mom and dad. There will be days in your child’s life where they will need you to be there. All they need is your presence. You are their rock. You are their support. At times all you might need to do is hold them, pat their back, or just hug them.
Setting boundaries is a sign of good mental health in children
Help your child set boundaries. Life becomes difficult if there aren’t any boundaries. It is a great idea to teach this when your child is young. What are the boundaries? It is the limit up to which you can tolerate things or a limit up to which you decide to do something. After that boundary, things are not your responsibility and not your guilt to carry. It is a huge topic to elaborate on. I hope you get the gist of it. I would love to summarise it with the below quote.
Encourage and praise positive choices
Encouragement and praises make everyone happy. It gets us to do that thing more. It is a sort of validation one seeks. Try to avoid the necessity of validation in adults. But children are always looking at their parents for acknowledgment and praise. This is because we are the best people in their life. If we praise them and encourage them, it makes them happy. You don’t need to praise everything, but the positive choices that impact their life should always be praised. Let them make positive choices and see the result of their choice.
Model Self Care
It is crucial to model and normalize self-care in your home. Self-care is as simple as taking care of oneself in a wholesome manner. Self -care plays a huge role while you nurture a child’s mental health. The necessities of the body, mind, and soul are different. Taking care of oneself makes you happy and content from the inside. Teach your child or better model self-care to your child as a crucial everyday task. It can help you build your child’s emotional health. Because
“You can’t pour from an empty cup. Take care of yourself first” – Unknown
Let your child take decisions to nurture a child’s mental health
Decision making is one of the most important life skills. As crucial as it is, it has a huge impact on our emotions if you cannot do it. It increases confusion or dependency which are not healthy for any individual. So help your child make the decisions right from when they can sit and eat. Let them choose what they want to eat. Once your child starts speaking, allow them choices related to themselves.
Handle tantrums gently yet firmly
Tantrums are a part of parenting life. Handling tantrum plays a huge role while you nurture a child’s mental health. Children throw tantrums when they are unable to control their emotions and feelings. Many times it happens that the child does not even understand what he is feeling. By the time your child is ready to start throwing tantrums, it means he is old enough to understand the effect that his tantrums have on parents. If you give in to tantrums every time, a child will make sure they throw more tantrums. Make sure you gauge the situation and then give in if it is ultimately necessary. I agree sometimes you just don’t have any other options.
However, a better way of handling tantrums is by being kindly firm with your limits and rules. For example, when your child is having a tantrum and getting physical, you can gently and firmly hold his hand and say “Hands are for eating, playing and not of hitting. I cannot allow you to hit me. It is not okay with me! We can do something else, maybe, crush some papers?” It is necessary to find the cause behind your child’s whining and tantrums and get to it rather than dealing with the symptoms.
Cause and consequences play a part in when you nurture a child’s mental health
Teach your child about cause and consequence. Early like 8th month or 9th month, you will find that the child will understand cause and consequence. Yes! You read it right! That early. When your child sits on the high chair and starts throwing objects down. You pick it up for him. As a result, he has learnt the concept of cause of consequence. If I throw this down, mom will pick it for me. He moves a certain toy, it makes noise. See isn’t it simple. When your child starts growing it is important to set some limits and rules. Limits and rules make the child feel safe. They do not like it, but they need it. It is also from safety concerns.
Make sure you have consequences specifically stated to them. If you do this, this will happen. For example, if you throw this toy, it will break and you won’t have a toy to play with. When my son used to play with cars, there was a phase where he started using them rashly. This was causing damage to the toys. So when he did not listen even after a gentle request, I had to keep all the cars out of his reach for 2 days. Soon, he was back to using them gently and carefully.
Allow them to say NO
Please allow your child to say NO to the things he does not like. Yes! He will start saying no to you now and then know how to say it when it’s necessary. If a child has not learnt to say no, it is not a healthy practice in the long run. You must be thinking your child says NO to everything. Yes! This might happen. However, parents generally have a way or work around this.
But imagine if you have never taught him or allowed him to say no to. It is okay if your child does not want to share his favorite toy sometimes when he is sad. If your child says no to strangers, talk, or touch, it is okay. It is alright if your child says No to help you when he is busy observing a bee on the flower. I hope you understand what I am trying to say. This is very important to nurture a child’s emotional health.
Help them learn about their bodies to nurture a child’s emotional health
It is highly important to teach children about their bodies and limits at an early age. Yes! Telling the right name for body parts and good touch bad touch is crucial. Teach them about the circle of comfort. A certain area around the body you want no one in. It is okay to push, scream, or hit if anybody crosses that boundary without permission. Personal safety is important for good mental health in children.
Limited screen time
Screen time has become an important and mostly nonnegotiable fact in our children’s lives. However, equally important is also that there needs to be a limit to how long and what your child watches during this screen time. You can also make sure you help them benefit from this screen time.
Let them do things independently
Children are meant to be independent. That’s the essence of our parenting. Your child is going to grow up one day and fly to her or his own nest. I want my child to be independent in all senses. He should be able to handle and take care of himself (all aspects). I am sure even you would love that. Even in younger children, there’s a natural drive for them to do things on their own. Doing things on their own builds confidence, self-assurance, and a sense of accomplishment. If you nurture this independence in the right way, your child’s emotional health will be promoted exceptionally.
Help them understand the emotions they are feeling
Most of us do not understand our emotions sometimes. How can we expect the child to know and understand these complicated emotions and feelings? Moreover, expecting young children to handle emotions by themselves is a little too much according to me. What can we do? Help your child understand emotions first. Teach them about emotions, play games about emotions, make drawings with emotional faces. A parent is generally attuned to a child’s emotions or feelings. If you are present in a situation where your child is starting to feel something, hold his or her hand. You can guide them through what they are feeling and help name the emotion. This itself sometimes calms your child. He may already know how to deal with anger or sadness if only he could just pinpoint anger or sadness.
Pretend play of feelings and emotions to nurture a child’s mental health
Play pretend play games with situations that involve emotions and feelings. Encourage talking in detail about feelings, emotions, and how your body feels when you feel it. This is like preparing them for situations in a playful way.
Share your feeling and listen to their feelings too
Amazingly, children can relate to their parents. Let your child see that you feel the same feelings and emotions. Share your experiences and tell them how you dealt with them. Sometimes share a failure story, let them see that even you (his favorite adult) have tried and failed at it. Encourage your child to share his or her stories with you too. Listen, only listen to your child. Offer advice only if your child asks for it. This two-way communication can be used to nurture a child’s mental health.
Say true to your words to build your child’s emotional health
This is my favorite tip from the whole list. For a child, parents must stay true to their words. Say what you do and do what you say. Offering advice and helping them with something but not following it yourself does not help them trust you or your words. Promising something and not doing it hurts a child. Understandably, there can be situations where you cannot just do what you promised. Tell your child the reason behind why you can’t do it. They will be sad but they are learning the art of being truthful. Tell them you will make up to it. Caring for your mental health when you’re teaching the child about his mental health is non-negotiable.
Believe in your child
Always believe in your child to nurture your child’s emotional health.
Maintain your calm when feeling run high
There will be times when your child is being unreasonable, irritating, and most provoking. How you deal with it is what they are unconsciously absorbing! Be calm. I know it is difficult and sometimes impossible. If you are calm nor matter what, slowly your calmness will bring a certain stillness in them. “A calm ocean is never afraid of a raging river“ – Unknown “An ocean never refuses a river.” – Sheila Chandra
Let your child fail and experience distress
Who has faced life without failure or distress? I believe no one. Everybody has their share of failures and disappointments. Teach your child to experience distress and failures. For only then they will value success. Allow your child to fall and get up on his own. I do not mean to let them hurt their head or more physical pain. Always be there to save your child from such horrible pains. However, a scraped knee is every child’s proud mark of trying something and failing at it but going at it again and succeeding. Most children learn to ride a bicycle only after getting over the fear of falling by falling down a few times. Help them and guide them on how to deal with distress and failure now and they will always be thankful for how they fall and rise again in the future with no problems at all. This is how you can build experiences for them while nurturing a child’s mental health.
Meditation sessions as a family are one beautiful way to nurture your child’s emotional health
Make a routine of meditating as a family. Build this habit in your children right from the beginning. Regular meditations have an amazing and positive effect on an individual’s mental health. Imagine if you could make meditation a habit for your children right from childhood.
Teach them how to accept emotions and then move past it
Emotions are a part of life. Teach your child to accept these emotions, feel them, and learn to move past those emotions. This moving past is very important. If this does not happen the emotions control you and your daily life. This is not a healthy cycle. Children do this naturally when they are young. They are so forgiving and forget about it in a minute. However, as your kid grows this can change. Help them maintain this childhood trait of forgiving and forgetting and they will always be happy.
Make a “Mood Changing Book” for good mental health in children
Talk to your child about the things that make him or her happy. Make a list of these things. Try to make a scrapbook with things related to what makes the child happy. Stick pictures of happy memories, people that make them smile. Whenever your child is overwhelmed with emotions, ask him to go through his mood changing book. I am sure most of the time, it works beautifully in changing your child’s mood and feelings. It is a healthy way of dealing with the wave of emotions. You can talk about it more when your child is in a state where he can listen to you. For me, bedtime is a great time to connect with my child, when he is open to my questions and my insights. Also, bedtime is when he is ready to share his insights with me.
Find solutions together
Help your child find solutions to the problem that are making them feel the emotions. Teach them that every problem is solvable if you focus on the solution. Do this as an activity together of navigating through the troubled waters.
Help them create coping mechanisms to nurture a child’s mental health
A coping mechanism may work with your child or not. Try different coping mechanisms with your child. See which one works best for him. Remind them in the situations about their special coping mechanism. Trust me children are always happy when they have their special way of doing things. What can these coping mechanisms be? Breathing specially, holding hands or hugging, scribbling on a paper (my kind of coping mechanism), throwing something that’s allowed like a ball, run (another one of my favorite coping mechanisms), jump. It helps your body constructively redirect your energy.
Give them everything they need but not everything they want
A child always wants some new toy or some new thing that his friend has. You might not want to get everything your child asks for. Try to balance between need and want. Ask your child the reason behind why he wants it. If the reason is unreasonable for you, it is a good idea to deny it. Always getting them everything they ask can sometimes make a child entitled.
The key here is to ask for the reason why he needs it. You can remind your child that you don’t need two of the same or you can buy another one when one is broken. Sometimes, you will see that your child may ask for a calculator because he wants to start a shop and he needs it for the calculations. This request seems reasonable to me because the young mind is weaving ideas. I might get him a simple one that works for his purpose. So try out what works best for you in this scenario.
“Sit down and play with your child” – Evergreen tip to nurture a child’s emotional health
Every parent needs to sit down with the child to his level and play with him. Play is the child’s work. That is how they learn everything they need about the world around them. What is better than having parents as your play companion? Nothing! Nothing compares to the time you can give your child. Try to take some time every day to sit down with your child and play.
Read many books with your child
Reading is my child’s favorite quiet time activity. He loves reading with me. Books have been a crucial part of my child’s life right from the first year. Yes! Reading books is one of the most amazing and fun developmental activities you can do with your child. In this case, reading books about emotions and feelings. Books with pictures and characters are a great way for children to relate to them.
Never taunt or mock your child to nurture your child’s emotional health
I am never okay with anyone taunting or mocking anyone. Children are more sensitive to these taunts and mocks than adults. Parents should avoid this habit completely to guard their child’s confidence and sensitivity.
Do not scold your child in front of other people
Every child needs to be reprimanded at times. I agree with scolding your child for their mistakes, but I don’t advise doing it in front of others. You shouldn’t fight with your spouse in front of your child, similarly, I believe you shouldn’t point your child’s mistakes in front of someone else.
Teasing a child cannot support good mental health in children
Young children are very susceptible to teasing. Teasing a child about anything that he doesn’t understand does more damage than help. For example, teasing a child about a younger baby who is about to arrive yet, makes him more insecure about having to share his parents with. Teasing about taking away their toys for someone else without permission. Do you think those poor children and toddlers understand that you are teasing them? If you find someone doing this with your children, ask them to not do it with the child as it hurts them.
Teach children to recognize and acknowledge mistakes to oneself
It is a very important good manner to teach your children to apologize when they are mistaken. Apologizing for the sake of it is not going to do it. A child has to understand that he has hurt somebody and needs to make up for it. It is crucial to help your child acknowledge his mistakes too. This can be best done by modeling such behavior at home. Say sorry to your child and apologize when you are wrong.
Sometimes, purposefully say something wrong and say “Oops! My bad! I am sorry! I will get it right next time.”. Such simple things can get them to giggle and understand the meaning of sorry in a better way. More importantly, it is better to practice apologizing at home with familiar people rather than in situations with their friends on playdates or with other adults. This understanding of one’s mistake and the humbleness to apologize for it helps nurture a child’s mental health throughout their life.
Practice gratitude with your child every day to nurture your child’s emotional health
I think gratitude is the best and most important positive emotion everybody feels and needs to feel. A feeling of gratitude every day helps multiply the reasons you are grateful for. Writing gratitude flips your emotions from any negative feelings you are feeling overpowered by. Make a diary for your child too. When you write down your gratitude list, ask your child for 5 things he is grateful for throughout his day. Make it interesting by doodling the images of things they are grateful for. Trust me they will say simple things like mom, dad, food, pet, etc. That is enough at a young age. It becomes a habit as your child grows and you will find a humble, grateful, and emotionally healthy individual.
All play and no rest makes jack a dull boy
Rest is a balance we need in a life full of responsibilities and work. I love to rest. I love weekends where I get to focus on myself and rest my body and my mind. Children are the busiest people I have met until now. They are always onto something. Children right from infancy to adulthood are busy with learning, playing, eating, making friendships, etc. However, if you notice a little period of rest is required in between activities to maintain optimal physical and emotional health. When physically children get overwhelmed, they fall sick. Alternately, when a child gets emotionally overwhelmed, he has tantrums, meltdowns, and burnouts. Hence, it is very important to keep reminding children to rest and help them understand the importance of rest to nurture a child’s emotional health.
In conclusion, I would love to say you must take care of your child’s mental health when they are young because it shapes how they live their lives in the future. Most people’s psychological problems stem from a lack of emotional support and understanding from their parents in childhood. So make an extra effort(if you need to) to work on your mental health while working on nurturing a child’s mental health. Getting everything done is important. However, you and your child are important too!