How to Nurture Your Child’s Mental Health
If there is one issue that both new parents and experienced ones seem to encounter, then it’s the issue regarding their child’s development. More specifically, it’s about taking good care of a growing human being’s mental health, to prepare them for the ups and downs that will come later in life. Not only that but to also give them as much of an advantage when growing up as possible, advantage represented by having grown up in a healthy and beneficial environment.
As we all know, and as children teach us more often than not, a good parent-child relationship needs to be created as early on in their childhood as possible, as it’s necessary to get along in order to have a healthy development and an enjoyable time together, after all. What’s even more needed is pushing our understanding past the simple notion of having a good relationship with our child, towards the point where we as parents can become their friend and confidant as well. It doesn’t mean that our children shouldn’t have other kids they trust as their friends and that we should be hovering over them at every moment to know it all, but it means that they should feel comfortable enough to come to you with their issues should it ever be the case. In most cases, having good communication alone is already a great step in nurturing a child’s mental health. After all, we’re their guardians, their heroes and their pillars of support, and they should know we’re on their side and ready to help.
And today, with so much conflicting information popping up everywhere regarding everything and anything, from what a healthy diet should look like for your child, all the way to what kind of routines they should be developing, it’s very easy to get confused about what and how you should be addressing various issues, be those behavior-related or just better parenting strategies. Because of that, we have put together a list of ways through which you could better your parenting skills and nurture your child’s mental health, so you get a clear idea of what you should be looking out for when trying to adjust or improve your parenting techniques!
First of all, you have to start with yourself. You need to always make sure that you’re in a mood or mindset that could benefit both your child and yourself and that you’re not running around restlessly, inhaling and exhaling coffee and forgetting what sleep feels like. Don’t be ashamed or afraid to schedule a day for your own needs, to take care of yourself and recharge your batteries for the upcoming week. If anyone in the family can help look after the child(ren) while you do so, then don’t hesitate to ask for their help! You’re not raising a kid alone, after all, even friends can lend a hand when needed.
Second, with an improved mood comes a bigger amount of patience, and that’s exactly what you will need when educating and taking care of a child. Put that patience to good use whenever your kid seems down or when they’re doing something potentially harmful, to explain to them why they shouldn’t be doing that or listen to the things that bother them. More often than not, their struggles are easily fixable, especially when it comes to conflicts with other children, and while you could help them resolve an issue or a fight quicker and have them learn a valuable lesson or two from that, parents tend to accidentally overlook all those mood swings and leave children with their inner struggles until they become more obvious, or until they eventually fade away after leaving their mark on them.
Be understanding, be patient and be kind, and whenever you feel like you’re getting exasperated, just remember that you were once a child too and being explained things helps a lot more than being yelled at or brushed off.
Third, change your praising and scolding approach. Naturally, children who are met with more positivity and praise will be more receptive to what their parents ask of them, just as children who are always scolded or met with confusing and sudden orders being given are more prone to develop insecurities, fears and even ruin the parent-child relationship. Tell your child what they should do instead of warning them to not go somewhere or touch something, and the results will be better when the child actually has instructions to follow rather than when they’re forced to come up with things on their own, or just being limited on what they can do.
Fourth, remain reachable. Remain civil and remain to understand whenever your child wishes to express their feelings to you, regardless of what they’re about and what feelings they’re expressing as well. Address their insecurities and fears and joys accordingly and find out what makes them anxious and what makes them happy, so you can easily tilt the balance in their favor. If playtime with X makes them anxious, consider dropping that. If spending time reading a book with you makes them look forward to bedtime, then pay attention to it and nurture such feelings. There is nothing worse for a child than to be met with a raised tone or to be made to feel unimportant when they are trying to tell you something. The more open you are to discussing various topics with your child, the more open they will be about bringing their problems to you for advice later on, and as such you will be building a much more beneficial and healthy bond between you two.
Five, don’t underestimate them. Also don’t belittle them, especially when they’re displaying a sort of talent or passion. Allow your child to pursue their hobbies and passions and not only let them improve their own skills but actively try to help them as well. It doesn’t have to mean that you should send them to expensive art classes as soon as they made their first doodle, but it definitely means you should encourage their behavior and praise them for the good work they’re doing (whether the drawing is just a crazy doodle or if you actually guessed right when you asked if that’s a rhinoceros right there) and try to push them into doing more of it. Whenever they’re bored, ask them to draw you something, that you really love this or that animal and that their drawings always make you happy, or ask them to sing you something on the toy keyboard and so on.
More importantly, don’t compare them to any of their friends or classmates, especially not to say they’re not as good as those, but saying they easily exceed their friends’ skills can be equally as bad sometimes. It can affect their confidence, either for worse or for better respectively, but it can also worsen their behavior towards the ones they will perceive as their “inferiors”.
Six, protect your child from uncomfortable situations but don’t completely shield them from them all. It’s good to take your child away from groups of kids that are purposefully making him uncomfortable, but it’s not all that helpful to try to solve his own problems on the playground all the time. Let them experience the world and teach them how to deal with it all instead. Use everything as a lesson to learn something from!
Seven, don’t be ashamed to reach out to a professional if you feel like your child could benefit from talking to a specialist, it certainly won’t hurt and it absolutely doesn’t mean you’re not enough of a parent. It’s always a good idea to get a professional’s input and maybe they will show you that whatever issues your child is having are much easier to help manage and fix than you might have initially thought!