Our children’s mental health has always been an important issue, and never more so since the lingering effects of the COVID lockdowns – worry about what’s happening, time away from school, friends and routine – are still being experienced.
Supporting a child’s mental health and wellbeing can be challenging, with it also having an impact on you and your family.
While receiving professional help is always the best way forward, there are many useful ways you can help your children navigate mental health concerns at home.
Here are 7 simple ways to support your child with their mental health.
1. Foster a supportive home environment
Home is where the heart is. And the head. Our mental health is deeply connected with our living situation at home. Unfortunately, the issues and emotion you are feeling can be felt by your children and make them worried, anxious, or even act up as they try to process what they’re experiencing at home.
As a parent, it’s important to recognise this and work on building a trusting, supportive, and warm family home. If you feel overwhelmed, you need people there for you. It’s good to build a network of support for your family, so you can get the help you need when things are busy.
2. Educate yourself
Knowing more about mental health is not only good for your child, it’s also good for your family and the broader community. Even if it’s taking the time to read this article – you’re already in with a head start.
There are many aspects of mental health worth knowing. Educating yourself about how and why certain things impact a person’s mental health are important as it can help you empathise with your child and take steps to support them.
3. Take care of yourself
Caring for a child with mental health concerns takes a lot of time and emotion however the more you take care of yourself, the more capacity you’ll have for taking care of others. We’re talking about things for you, such as making the time for exercise, reading a good book, catching up with friends and other activities that you love. If you make your health a priority, your child might also start to mirror your enthusiasm for self-care, and that’s great parenting.
Don’t underestimate the power of you!
4. Ensure your child has support at school
Young children spend a lot of their time at school and it’s important that they’re in a safe space. Make sure they have the support there that they need. If there is a school psychologist, reach out to them and arrange to speak with them in confidence if you’re worried about your children or other children’s behaviour.
Being open and honest about your concerns with the relevant person at your child’s school is always best.
5. Don’t ignore the collective health of the family
Even if one family member is doing it rough, try not to devote all your energy to their well-being at the expense of others. Remember, as a family, everyone’s health and happiness can affect each other.
Here are some ways to keep everyone happy and healthy:
- Keep up regular meals: breakfast lunch and dinner.
- Bring everyone together for meals.
- Make times that are technology-free.
- Include everyone in fun activities together.
- Maintain open and honest communication between all family members.
- Check in with everyone in equal amounts.
6. Praise your child’s strengths and abilities
Nothing feels better than a bit of positive reinforcement. Children really respond well and develop their self-esteem when they hear it from those closest to them. Praising your child’s strengths and abilities can certainly have a positive effect on their mental health and improve their sense of self-worth.
This doesn’t mean you have to praise everything they do. Save it for moments when they tried hard and showed their willingness to engage. They’ll respond positively if they know they did a good job.
7. Speak to an expert about your child’s mental health
While it may seem overwhelming, or hard to find the time to visit a psychologist with experience in child mental health, the potential benefits are worth it. The best outcome for your child is always maximised with professional assistance. And if your child is experiencing mental health issues right now, it’s important to speak to a professional.
Starting with a visit to your family GP can be helpful as sometimes mental health issues originate from other health-related issues. Your doctor can also refer you to a qualified child psychologist.
If you want access to a qualified, compassionate child psychologist, make the effort to find one in your local area who can help you and your child move forward with confidence.