We want our children to grow into happy and healthy adults. While parents worry about all the external influences that kids and teens have to contend with — their peers, school, social media, music, movies, and more — the strategies you use to parent are far more powerful in their development. If you want to enhance your son or daughter’s mental health, here are a few practical steps you can take:
Model and encourage self-care. Kids learn most from what they see, and if that’s you making healthy choices, they’ll follow. Few things are as unproductive as “do what I say, not what I do.” Taking care of your own mental health a great first step in helping them build strong mental health.
Create routine and set clear boundaries. No matter how much they protest, kids and teens like structure. It’s safe and predictable.
Ensure there are healthy snacks, lots of hydration, and regular meals available. It’s impossible to have a healthy brain without a healthy body. Again, actions matter more than words.
Teach your kids about breathing. Knowing how to regulate one’s own breathing is one of the most powerful tools for getting ahead of stress.
Give them a soft place to fall and offer love, care, encouragement and positive feedback. It’s hard to watch your children fail or fall short, but being there for them when they experience failure will help to develop deep connections needed for optimal mental health.
Keep communication open and accepting. If they know they can discuss anything with you without having you become angry or mistrustful, they’ll turn to you when they need you most. Replace judgment with curiosity.
Encourage time outdoors. Our bodies need fresh air and sunshine. Not only does enjoying nature make us feel better emotionally, but sunlight provides many health benefits.
Exercise in fun ways with them (ride bikes, do yoga, dance, hike, walk). The things you do today to have fun together are the stuff of the happy stories they’ll tell your grandchildren, not to mention the healthy endorphins they’ll benefit from as well.
Talk about feelings openly. If you trust them to listen to your feelings, they’ll trust you to be a sounding board. And no, you don’t always have to have the answers. Sometimes they need to find them and you to just listen.
Offer counseling before they need it. People don’t have to be in crisis mode to benefit from therapy. Let them know if they ever want to see a counselor, you’ll make it happen, no questions asked. Having a safe space to process life’s challenges is an invaluable way to protect mental health.
Have fun in lots of different ways. Life can be joyful and adventurous. Fun is healthy, connecting, and empowering. It encourages deep breath and relaxation.
Laugh with them. Share moments of joy and delight. Tell humorous family stories, watch funny movies, and help them accept life with a smile and hearty laughter.
Strong mental health doesn’t require all of these all of the time, but the more you do, and the more often you do them, the better equipped you and your kids will be when challenges and stress come. Feel like you’re doing all you can, but anxiety or depression is still creeping in? Feel stuck and not sure what next step to take, or feel overwhelmed and not sure where to start? Scheduling an appointment is as easy as emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or clicking here.