Tips for Enhancing your Child's Mental Health
As parents, it can be difficult to recognize and respond to the mental health needs of our children. Studies show that 1 in 5 children ages 13-18 experience mental health concerns, and even serious mental health illnesses. While it can feel overwhelming or impossible to address those concerns, there are simple practices you can engage in as a parent to enhance your child’s mental health. These tips do not replace professional help when needed, but can make a drastic improvement on home life and relationships when utilized daily!
A Safe, Supportive and Low-Stress Home
Children easily reflect the environment that they reside in. Take inventory of the home environment – are everyone’s basic needs provided for? Does the home feel safe? Is there tension between family members, or do you feel constant stress as a parent? These factors can influence a child’s mental health, even when they seem fine or don’t share that they are impacted. Start with things that are in your control, and give your child the opportunity to discuss if they feel safe and supported when they are home.
Take a Deep Breath
When our children are escalated, we often want to jump right into problem-solving mode. However, it’s almost impossible to de-escalate a child if you escalate too! Take a step back, and take a deep breath (or a few). Evaluate the situation and what your child is needing. In some instances, your child may just want to be heard and is struggling to express themselves. In other instances, they may be escalating further because they see you escalating. Try to model a calm demeanor, and your child will follow. We have several breathing tools we share with our clients which can be found under our tools section.
Time and Space
It is easy to fall into the “helicopter parent” trope. When we see our children struggling, we feel the urge to ask questions or share space with them, because we want to know what they’re feeling and how to help. Sometimes children need time and space to process what they feel and figure out how to express their emotions. It is okay to give them a little distance, which can look like different rooms in the house if needed. Be mindful to note if they are isolating themselves for extended periods of time, but allow room for their thoughts to develop independently.
Time to Play
Every child needs playtime in their day, even teenagers! Play is an important part of child development, and is one of the ways in which a child learns to express themselves. Ask your child what they like to do for play, and encourage them to think of things beyond electronics. Try to engage with them in their favorite play activities. This is a great way to bond, which opens the door for emotional communication. With teenagers, this could include art, sports, walking, going for rides, or anything that they identify as interests.
The Biggest Tip: GIVE YOURSELF GRACE!
Remember, you are human and so is your child. You will make mistakes, and so will they. There is no perfect parent or child, and every child’s needs are different. When you feel overwhelmed, lean on your support system for strength and resources. Check in with yourself about what you are experiencing, and check in with your child about what they feel they need. Don’t be afraid to seek professional help if things feel beyond your control. You do not have to struggle alone, and your child will always benefit from you seeking help!
This blog was written by Imani Crawford, LCSWA.