Life naturally has ups and downs – that’s a given. Every April we’re reminded of the importance of nurturing our mental health to feel our best daily. This Mental Health Awareness Month, we’re sharing five ways to help support children’s mental health today.
What is Mental Health?
“Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act,” explains MentalHealth.Gov. The website continues by saying that contributing factors can stem from biological indicators, life experiences, and even family history. Furthermore, the way we deal with stress, connect with those around us, and handle decisions also influence our mental state.
When it specifically comes to children, the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states ADHD, anxiety problems, behavior problems, and depression are the most commonly diagnosed mental disorders in U.S children. The organization reveals that mental, behavioral, and developmental disorders can be traced back to early childhood. For instance, “Diagnoses of ADHD, anxiety, and depression are more common with increased age,” and, “Behavior problems are more common among children aged 6–11 years than younger or older children.”
With everything mentioned above, creating and sustaining positive mental health comes from deliberate awareness and actions everyday. Having solid self-care habits and routines, in turn, are immensely critical. Things like getting regular exercise, eating a healthy diet, setting goals, and prioritizing sleep are some of the many ways in which The National Institute of Mental Health advocates.
5 Ways to Support Children
Practicing enriching mental health habits individually is just one piece of the puzzle. As most children spend their days in school, the classroom is a valuable place to reinforce positive mental health. As previously indicated, role models in children’s lives – such as parents, caregivers, and teachers – can significantly impact their sense-of-self early on.
Taking a mindful approach can help ease the mind from the several twists and turns of life. Mindful.org encourages teaching mindfulness to children to, “give them the tools they need to build confidence, cope with stress, and relate to uncomfortable or challenging moments.” Breathing exercises, meditation, and gratitude are some of the ways they can nurture a positive mindset early on so that it’s an integral part of daily life as they mature.
School settings are a powerful mode of influence when it comes to mental health promotion. That’s why access to mental health services – such as Evidence-based programs, and early intervention services – can help children thrive long-term. Youth.org explains, “Studies have shown the value of developing comprehensive school mental health programs in helping students achieve academically and have access to experiences that build social skills, leadership, self-awareness, and caring connections to adults in their school and community.”
Everyone handles the experience of good and bad circumstances differently. However, there still are telling mental health warning signs that can trigger an alarm. Educators are advised to carefully monitor behaviors in students like, “Feeling very sad or withdrawn for more than two weeks, seriously trying to harm oneself, or making plans to do so, sudden overwhelming fear for no reason, sometimes with a racing heart or fast breathing.” Monitoring these behaviors allows educators to create a safe-space within the classroom by reinforcing positive behaviors, inspiring students to help one another, and more,” MentalHealth.gov emphasizes.
A sense of connectedness and compassion can emanate out of a helpful interaction. The National Association of School Psychologists articulates that it is necessary to have children know that they can make a difference in the lives of others. Positive self-esteem, personal responsibility, and community involvement are natural by-products of lending a helping hand at a young age.
As social animals, having close-knit ties with others can foster feelings of connectedness, stability, trust, and more. While the parent/caretaker dynamic with children is vital, Verywell Family also highlights relationships with family members, friends, neighbors, and others as essential to supporting children’s mental health. Establishing these connections is just as important as maintaining them. The online publication suggests arranging virtual visits via Facetime or Skype as great ways to sustain relationships even when apart.
As we support and teach mental awareness to the children around us, we each contribute to their overall happiness.