Our children’s mental health needs and concerns are as equally important in cultivating, caring, protecting, and supporting as any other area in their lives. Parents and guardians shouldn’t put to the back burner the importance of mental health regarding their children to that of academics, physical fitness, and spiritual understanding. Mental health matters when it comes to our children. Yes, there maybe some biological and environmental factors that play beyond our role as parents in control that have an impact with our children within some challenges regarding mental health, but we can provide as parents to nurture their mental health in a loving balance. We should do our best to strive in nuturing their mental health as parents. The inside and the outside matters when it comes down to our children’s and our teens’ needs.
Most household may not have a mental health professional living in the home, but as parents we are our children’s first teachers, confidants, and companions to help them in coping with the world surrounding them. Here a few steps to consider in nuturing your child’s mental health needs, opening the family dialogue of addressing mental health, breaking stigmas, and creating a welcoming environment of love:
- Model healthy behaviors in handling emotions, let downs, shake ups, and disappointments. We don’t have to bottle up our natural feelings in being robotic as parents. Children will learn from the world around them in seeing natural emotions of grief, sadness, anger, and etc. However, if we can be silent role models in handling those emotions in a positive way without “hiding them” in thinking we are “protecting ” them it gives them the courage to express theirs.
- Allow open dialogue for them to express themselves and their feelings. Gone are the days where it was to say simply,” Because, I said so!” with no explanation or reply in punishment. “Hush, for I give you something to cry about !” only trains our children to bottle in their feelings after experiencing natural emotions to what they may genuinely be feeling at a time. Provide a cool down time frame if necessary for them to express themselves if emotions are high. Allow open ended questions for friendly conversation and even reprimanding dialogue in understanding the “Why” from both parties. Also, its important to be an active listener.
- Break gender stigmas that say only boys or girls are supposed react or not react to certain scenarios . The truth is boys do cry, and should be allowed to have feelings. Girls are allowed to be assertive. Our children shouldn’t be put to shame in feeling guilty because of their gender in handling emotions in expressing themselves.
- No shaming allowed! Controlling children through parenting by shaming them through guilt leads to anxiety, depression, and may have other harmful effects. We can guild them as parents without shaming, mocking, and belittling them.
- Surround them with other positive, loving, and caring adults. It’s essential for our children to be surrounded by other positive adults besides ourselves that can build them up, be of support, provide encouragement, and give sound guidance. Be watchful and aware of “adult bullies”, manipulators, and any adult that you see that attempts to tear down your child’s spirit.
- Create a home of forgiveness. We all make mistakes. Parents make mistakes and our children make mistakes. No one in the household should be above apologizing, and apologies should be open to acceptance from all.
- Limit the use of electronic devices, and monitor social media. Many studies have suggested the impact of long uses of electronic devices for children in a negative way in desensitization, attention issues, sleep disorders, anxiety, and depression. Social media is an open door for the same negative feelings along with building the constant need for validation, peer pressure, depression, and cyper bullying. If you choose to allow them to use social media be watchful, alert, and protective.
- Choose to be proactive rather than reactive. Tensions can get high through parenting, and nobody said parenthood would be easy. When tensions are high take a step back to collect, regroup, and address the issue at hand in a calm matter before doing or saying something that you will regret.
- Communicate friendly with knowing their teachers, friends, mentors, and all others who share in spending time with your child. If you have an open relationship with the others who apart of their lives it creates a healthy nucleus in allowing them to have a loving community of supporters, you’re allowed to see openly any known concerns, and it shows them even more that you care.
- Don’t be afraid to address any red flags of any underlying areas of concern in behaviors or needs with your child. Again, keep an open dialogue with your child’s pediatrician or doctor in allowing them to make any referrals if necessary. If there are any mental health concerns be open, research, and see what treatment plans are available for your child.