Children face various challenges and stressors that can jeopardize their mental health. Nowadays, young people are exposed to news stories about local and international issues and threats in very vivid and sometimes graphic ways. The Internet and social media have contributed to a more informed and knowledgeable generation, but kids can’t cope and process news stories about pandemics, war, illness, or social and political issues the way adults can.
Sometimes we, as adults, struggle to cope and handle these sorts of concerns in our environment, so imagine how your child feels when bombarded with all the news and information that has changed our lives in recent years. Children can develop fears and worries if they perceive the world around them as dangerous or threatening. Add to this their involvement in the virtual world of social media, where cyberbullying and social comparison take place. Your child’s mental health is likely more at risk of dysfunction than ever before.
As a parent, there are many ways you can do your part to raising a resilient and emotionally healthy child. In fact, your role in your child’s life is more influential than anything or anyone they interact with at school—or through their devices. You are your child’s greatest source of safety and support. Below, we’ll discuss 7 ways you can be there for your child and provide them the tools they need to navigate challenges in their environment.
1. Build your child’s self-esteem by encouraging them to identify their personal strengths.
Social media—and even the academic environment—can cause your child to compare themselves to their peers. This can undermine self-esteem and can even lead to mental health concerns, such as depression. A simple exercise, where your child lists their strengths—their unique abilities, qualities, and skills—can help remind them of what sets them apart from others. Encourage your child to use and practice their greatest strengths and skills, as this will build self-esteem and shift their focus away from comparison and overly focusing on weaknesses.
2. Help your child understand that it’s okay if they’re not good at everything. We all have strengths as well as weaknesses.
Just as important as identifying strengths is helping your child to accept—and yes, feel comfortable with—their personal weaknesses or the things they aren’t as good at. Accepting weaknesses should not be mistaken for “settling” or “not trying,” but it’s okay for your child to acknowledge that they can’t be good at everything or have all the same positive qualities as their peers—and this is normal and human. Encourage them to strengthen their weaknesses by practicing in order to improve skills in a given area and encourage them to pursue a challenge, even if they feel they’re not “good at it.” For instance, if your child wants to join the school choir, but they’re not a great singer, encourage them to join anyways! They can use the opportunity to learn the value of practice and of approaching tasks and activities that are unknown or difficult.
3. Teach your child the meaning of having a Growth Mindset.
A growth mindset means enjoying a challenge and not letting failure stop you, but instead, using failure as an opportunity for learning and growth. If children do not learn to accept failure and defeat, they may shy away from trying new things or pursuing opportunities because they’re afraid of failing. Fear of failure can limit your child now and as they enter the adult world. Allow your child to mourn a loss or failure and validate their feelings and concerns, but then ask your child what they’ve learned from the loss or failure. How can they use what they’ve learned? Help them to see the value in failure and loss as opportunities to come back better and stronger through hard work, practice, and believing in themselves.
4. You are your child’s best model of behavior.
It’s not your child’s friends or favorite musician or social media influencer that will influence their behaviors the most. Believe it or not, it’s you. Children will ultimately model their parents behaviors over anyone else’s. This does not mean that your child won’t model the behaviors of their peers or those they look up to, but it does mean that you are first in line. So, make sure you are modeling healthy ways to cope with and respond to stressful circumstances. Model kindness to others, even when you think your child isn’t paying attention. Think: Being polite and considerate to the busy server at the restaurant that keeps forgetting to bring water for the table.
5. Spend quality time together.
Your child needs quality time with you at all ages and stages—even during the years when they start to exert their independence and seem to only want to hang out with friends. When children are younger, they typically go along with whatever their parents want to do when it comes to leisure and quality time. However, as they grow, they’ll develop their own interests and preferences. This is when it will be important to ensure that your child will enjoy spending time with you. So, make the quality time fun and incorporate activities that you can both do together that your child enjoys. This is an essential step to start supporting your child’s mental health.
6. Be comfortable with showing your child that you make mistakes and that you’re not perfect.
As a parent, you might think that you have to always be the perfect model and example for your child all the time. While it’s true that your child will look to you as a guide on how they should behave, it’s important for them to see you make mistakes so they can observe how you handle such moments. For instance, some parents believe that admitting to your child that you made a mistake when you yelled at them is a sign of weakness. The reality is that this is a sign of strength—to show your child that you can have a lapse in judgment, but what’s important is that you were emotionally mature enough to recognize your error and take action to try to apologize or make things right.
Your child can learn healthy habits, like consuming healthy foods and exercising, now that they’re young. They’ll be more likely to continue these habits as they get older.
Even if it seems like your child repels all nutritious foods and prefers to sit in front of the computer than go out and get some sunlight and exercise, know that your lessons on health are still sinking in. Some great strategies to instill the importance of healthy eating and exercise include, firstly, practicing them yourself most days of the week. Secondly, ensure that you only keep healthy foods at home. Your child might choose less healthy options when they’re at school or at friend’s homes, but at least what they’re eating at home is good. As for exercise, try to come up with fun activities that your child can do with you or as a family, like going for a walk together outdoors or at your local indoor shopping mall. If exercise is associated with difficult or boring tasks, your child may be much less enthusiastic to do it.
Interested In Supporting your Child’s Mental Health?
You can explore our therapy & counseling services right here to support your child’s mental health. Play Therapy is one of our most popular counseling services for children. It can be the key to unlock your child’s emotions and improve their communication skills.