World Mental Health Day is held each October 10 with the aim of raising awareness of mental health issues worldwide. The theme for 2018 is Young People and Mental Health in a Changing World.
According to the World Health Organisation, half of all mental illness begins by the age of 14. Adolescence is a tumultuous time when many changes are often occurring in young people’s lives and stress due to school, relationships and family issues may be high. Modern concerns such as our growing use of technology can cause additional pressures in this vulnerable time between childhood and adulthood.
We can’t remove all the pressures of the modern world, but we are able to help young people to deal with stress and challenges by building mental resilience. Building mental resilience from a young age can help children to cope better with their feelings and outside pressures and can help to control mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety.
Every parent wants their child to grow up happy and healthy, but the importance of mental health and resilience are often overlooked. Here are some ways you can help your children develop this important life skill at home.
1. Provide a Nurturing and Stable Relationship
Supportive adult-child relationships are one of the most important factors to help children develop resilience according to Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child.
A nurturing relationship with their parents or other caregivers provides children with a safe and secure environment in which to grow, and a model for future relationships with others.
You can promote a good relationship with your children by simply spending quality time with them – put down your phone to show they have your full attention and ask about their day, or spend some time together doing a fun activity.
2. Encourage Independence
From a young age, you can help to build your child’s autonomy and independence by encouraging them to do simple tasks without your help such as feeding themselves or getting dressed.
As your child grows older, you can give them more responsibility and complex tasks such as allowing them to help cook the family meal or do small chores around the house.
Allow plenty of opportunities for free play and for your children to make their own decisions, with simple, open-ended toys such as blocks, scarves for dressing up and building dens and craft supplies. Avoid screen time and let them be bored occasionally – finding something to do is part of learning to be independent.
3. Help Children Understand and Manage Their Emotions
Managing emotions is a skill that not many adults have mastered, so it’s not surprising that most children have trouble managing strong feelings.
However, with support and guidance, you can help your child to think before acting, even when experiencing strong emotions, encouraging self-control and avoiding impulsivity.
Part of this is ensuring your children have plenty of opportunities to play with others so they can learn how to work and communicate together. You should also offer consistent discipline and help your child to deal with frustration and anger in constructive ways including talking about how they’re feeling.
4. Teach Children to Deal With Challenges
Your child’s life is unlikely to be plain sailing from start to finish, so it’s important they learn how to deal with and overcome challenges.
Good problem-solving skills are a key characteristic of resilient people. You can encourage this by setting your child goals and challenges, helping them to come up with possible solutions, and allowing them to try, fail, and try again at their own pace.
Try involving your children in the everyday challenges you face as a family and see what solutions they come up with. For example: “we’re late for school nearly every day – what do you think we can do about that?”
Get Help If You Need It
If you think your child may need some extra help in developing resilience skills, or they’ve been experiencing unusual stress or trauma, you may want to seek professional help.
The trained child psychologists at Psychological Health Care will work with your child using therapies such as play and stories to build trust and confidence and work through emotional issues.
Call today to book an appointment.