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Supporting Your Child’s Mental Health

For the most part, kids seem happy and excited to wake up and experience the day ahead of them. Mental health is a conversation that parents may or may not have with their kids simply because it seems like a conversation to have with kids as they grow up. As a parent, however, you play an important role in your child’s mental health, and can promote good mental health by creating a positive environment at home and learning about the early signs of mental health problems. This is not to say all children will require you to seek professional help, rather, that nurturing your child’s mental health can have significant impacts as they continue growing.

Lighthouse Explorers believes in helping children develop in all facets of their lives, including emotionally, physically, spiritually, cognitively, and mentally! As a Christian childcare center in Rosemount, we create an environment where children can explore, express, and grow safely and courageously. Take a look at our programs, or contact our office today to learn more about how to enroll.

What is Mental Health?

Mental health is our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. Our mental health can affect how we think, feel, and behave, influencing daily activities such as relationships, academic performance, and physical health. While your child’s mental health is always important, it is topical right now because of the current events. Your child may not be exposed to a lot of the things you see, but they sure are noticing that they have not been able to see their friends and the fact that they may not be headed back to school this year. This period in time is being characterized by a change in norms and day-to-day life, and your child may be affected by everything going on around them. It is important to introduce this concept of mental health in an age-appropriate way so that your child can better understand how they feel.

Be Intentional and Attuned

When you are attuned to your child, it means that you are consciously aware of your child’s nonverbal physical and emotional needs, responding empathically to meet those needs. You can nurture your child’s mental health by paying close attention to your child’s verbal and nonverbal cues. Children may not directly say that they need someone to talk to, which is why it’s a good idea to support them in helping them identify how they feel.

Children will develop a secure foundation from which their mental health can flourish, as they sense that their parents are interested in them. It is imperative to provide a secure environment in which your child can safely and confidently experience their feelings, even before they can identify and verbally articulate how they feel. Children learn best when they feel safe, so teaching them how to identify their feelings will go further if they are able to express those feelings.

Teach them the Language of Feelings

One of the most important things that you can teach your children is to recognize what they are feeling and how to express their feelings into words. Children are known to be very emotional, but it’s mostly because they don’t know how to accurately express or even identify how they feel. Help your children grow by teaching them the many words for different emotions, and using examples when those feelings arise in themselves and others.

Give your child a list of emotions, like anger, sadness, happiness, etc., as well as common feelings associated with each one. As they gain a firmer grip on labeling their own emotions, it could be beneficial to give them examples of your own emotions and what led you to feel that way.

Avoid Labeling Their Feelings as “Good” or “Bad”

As you listen to your children label or express their feelings, resist the urge to give negative and positive connotations to each one. It is completely OK for children and youth to feel sad and angry, as those can be incredibly powerful emotions that can be channeled into creativity. Even further, those emotions are just a part of the human experience, and simply cannot be avoided. Instead of teaching your child to avoid feeling these emotions, saying that they are bad, help them work through what they feel.

It is likely that these emotions will leave on their own anyway, just as quickly as they came. That is the thing about emotions, they are like waves that reach their peak before subsiding. Plus, teaching your kid that feeling angry or sad is bad will indirectly tell them they aren’t able to express those feelings, which is an unhealthy way of dealing with emotions.

Sometimes the actions people take in response to those feelings are bad, but the feelings are never bad themselves. Feelings are powerful, and if we harness ourselves and our children with the tools to understand and listen to them, then we know how to move forward in a productive and appropriate way.

Be a Role Model

So much of what kids learn comes from watching their parents, so if you are actively coping with your mental health in a positive and productive way, not only are you creating a good environment for mental health, but you are showing your child how they can also manage their mental health. Modeling good mental health habits creates a healthier environment for your kid, so they know that it is not only OK to talk about their mental health, but to actively partake in habits that positively maintain it.

While a lot of the discussion around mental health is still considered taboo, it really shouldn’t be. Mental health is so important for you, your kids, and everyone else. Your child's mental health is just as important as yours, especially during such a volatile time in the world. Start the conversation early, because it is one of the key ways that we take care of ourselves. Stay updated on our blogs for news and information about early childhood education. For more information on our programs or about how to enroll, contact our office today.