Studies reveal that mental health issues affect 1 in 10 children, 70% of whom do not have the right interventions. More children are affected today compared to 30 years ago.
According to the World Health Organization, mental health is defined as a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.
A child’s mental health is as important as their physical health. Cultivating good habits and giving them a positive framework will help them deal with the highs and lows of life. It will enable them to grow into healthy well-rounded adults.
It’s important to understand that poor mental health can be caused by a variety of factors including genetic, environmental, psychological, developmental and social changes. Positive mental health is more just than the absence of mental disorders.
The foundation for positive mental health starts at home. Here are some of the factors to consider.
- Giving your child a stable environment that caters to their physical health (balanced diet, sleep and exercise).
- Making sure that they have an emotional support system inside and outside of the family (school, teachers and friends).
- Having opportunities to learn, grow and express themselves creatively.
- Spending time outdoors and reducing screen time.
- Spending quality time with them, offering support during difficult times and regularly expressing affection and care.
With all the basics in place, here are some of the ways to teach your child about mental health and emotional well-being.
- Talk to your child about what is going on in their life. Listening is key.
- Encourage them to be resilient by expressing uncomfortable emotions and cultivating positive ones.
- You need to anticipate stressful situations in advance and teach them how to deal with them. E.g. making new friends, the first day of school, exams, etc.
- Talk to them openly about ‘big picture’ questions like purpose, meaning and their place in the world.
- Help them to set goals, learn from failure and celebrate achievement.
- Enable them to evaluate their own mental health and provide them with a toolkit to deal with negativity and stress. E.g. mindfulness, compassion, gratitude, etc.
Watch out for any signs of depression, self-harm, anxiety and eating disorders and consult a professional immediately.
Our guide outlines the facts based on research from several online and offline resources. If you are in doubt or worried about your child for any reason, consult with a qualified and certified mental health professional or medical doctor.
Reviewed by: Jason Eric Ross, PhD, LMHC
Date reviewed: 29th December, 2018