7 Tips to Support Your Child’s Mental Health

The list of mental health issues that can affect your child is a long one and each person is unique in the way that these pressure affect them and how they cope or fail to contend with these traumatic circumstances and pressures.

Mental health is an important topic to me.

I can honestly say that I think my childhood mental health was supported, as much as possible, after I suffered a terrible tragedy. After my father passed away suddenly, my mom took me to a therapist so that I could talk about my feelings. It was different for my older sister, who acted out in anger and understood the tragedy more than I did. I think I had more of a sense of denial or just misunderstanding. I used to tell my mom that I was tired of my father’s “trip” and that I wanted him home NOW. I still do. I always will, but I’ve grown to understand the trauma better, and to feel thankful for what my mom and then dad (she later remarried) gave to my senses of self, love and belonging. It couldn’t have been an easy feat.

The list of mental health issues that can affect your child is a long one and each person is unique in the way that these pressure affect them and how they cope or fail to contend with these traumatic circumstances and pressures.

I think a lot about Scarlet and Des now. Cassidy’s parents were divorced and my father had passed by the time we were five, which Des is now. Just because we’re a close and relatively happy family unit, does not mean I don’t think about ways I can help support their mental health. There are so many ages and stages and phases and obstacles in life, and kids today have vastly different lives than we had back in the 80’s and 90’s. We didn’t have smartphones and social media and the political climate we have now. Granted, there have always been historical challenges, but there were certain parts of my childhood that were like living in a bubble. We played outside and didn’t know much about the outside world until we were older.

The list of mental health issues that can affect your child is a long one and each person is unique in the way that these pressure affect them and how they cope or fail to contend with these traumatic circumstances and pressures.

In this changing world, there are some things that stay the same. Love. Closeness. Communication. Support. Encouragement. That’s why I made this list of 7 tips to support your child’s mental health. I have to make sure to keep myself in check too:

1 – Give your kids a sense of belonging. It’s essential to their well-being to feel connected to you, and to feel like an important part of a family unit. This promotes trust in others and in themselves. Strong relationships count from the start.

2 – Teach resilience. Adversity is a natural part of life and learning. Life isn’t always easy, so when your children learn that challenges DO happen, and then learn how to overcome them, this promotes good mental health and connectedness.

3 – Give your children a safe school environment with positive learning. Feeling safe is crucial to well-being, as well as learning outside of the home. Teach your kids to respect their teachers and administration, to be responsible and to be KIND. They will learn a lot in school, but so much learning comes from you. Teach them to stand up for friends, look for and perpetuate fairness, and to work with others against bullying. Teach them to reach out to others who seem to need it, and to seek help and guidance from teachers when needed. These are some of the most important education building blocks!

4 – Encourage kindness and helping others. I think that children need to learn about acts of kindness, no matter how small or large, and to know they can make a difference in this world. It helps with connection, positivity, and good mental health.

5 – Teach your kids about physical health. Good physical health can help support good mental health. Teach your children about healthy eating habits, healthy exercise, healthy sleep habits, as well as healthy hygiene habits.

6 – Talk to your children about their emotions. Make sure you have ongoing conversations with them and learn how to be and stay in tune with them, as life happens, and new experiences and obstacles present themselves. YOU are first defense.

7 – Spot the warning signs and know when something is off! This is a few years down the line for us, but this article is a powerful read for me. Mental health issues are a clear and present danger to your child. Know the signs. Be ready. Be there.

The list of mental health issues that can affect your child is a long one and each person is unique in the way that these pressure affect them and how they cope or fail to contend with these traumatic circumstances and pressures.

What’s your favorite tip for supporting your children’s mental health?

I Don’t Really Have the Words Either

This morning was the morning of a thousand bad mornings.

I woke up with the slight headache of being dehydrated, having skipped lunch and dinner yesterday, and having gone to sleep shivering so hard, I’m pretty sure I worked my abs. So there’s a plus side, right? I dropped the kids off, cheerfully enough, and came home to my power shutting off suddenly. It turned out to be several towns and cities-wide and it lasted two and a half hours. I don’t have a spare 20 minutes in my days, but two and a half hours? Talk about shivering your abs into submission! We’re back and spotty at best. The first post I saw when I logged back onto Facebook took my breath away.

My fifth grade teacher lost her long battle with brain cancer. Her daughter said, “I don’t really have the words.”

I don’t really have the words either, but I have and I will. I wrote about how her legacy will live on forever and she was the best of the best. She was what I consider a human game changer. The trajectory of my life was always and often spotty and crooked at best, but it’s MINE, and she saw it for what it was/is – heading somewhere. Fast sometimes. Slow sometimes.

graduation

God, I will miss her.

I’m sad for every kid who won’t get to meet her, and be changed by her. I’m comforted that her kids/grandkids knew her. May all of the lives she touched, touch all of the lives they’ll touch, and somehow we’ll all become human game changers, and we’ll all walk our own paths – always and often spotty and crooked at best, but heading somewhere. Somehow.

I’ve written her about her many times here before, so in celebration of her life, I’m going to copy and paste my previous words. I don’t really have the words, but like I said, I have and I will. With tears streaming down my face, probably always.

They’re all disjointed and copied/pasted, but hey, isn’t life??

This is for you:

1 – My fourth and fifth grade teachers came to my graduation party. I was so humbled and appreciative for all the things they put into one ear, that stayed in my head and jostled around a bit – and never went out the other ear. My fifth grade teacher told me she’d eat her arm if I didn’t grow up to become a writer. I talk about her sometimes. Do you know what else happened last week? I got to indirectly talk to her (through her daughter and husband on Facebook) and tell her how much I took her words to heart. It was such weird timing – a week of Facebook graduating class groups, and 5th grade teacher conversations.

2 – My fifth grade teacher told me if I didn’t become a writer, she’d eat her own arm. She thought that my writing was so sad, so that I didn’t have to be. I filled up dozens of black and white marbled composition books in her class. One day I wrote a story about the man in the moon who smiles at good people and literally moons bad people. I know she talked about it in the teacher’s lounge because other teachers would ask me to read my story. One night recently I told that story to Scarlet before bedtime. We both got the giggles for a long time before sleep finally took over.

3 – I was asked in an interview a few years ago this question: What was the first piece of literature (article, blog post, homework assignment, etc.) you wrote where you thought to yourself, “I’m a writer”?

What an awesome question! In truth, it probably happened in 5th grade. We used to write in black and white composition books and I wrote a story about a man in the moon who smiles at good people, and literally “moons” bad people. My math teacher stopped me in the hallway to ask if she could read my story. I figured I must be doing something right to have my stories talked about in the teacher’s lounge. My English teacher also pulled me aside one day and said, “I get you. Your writing is so sad, but you aren’t. I think your writing is sad so that you aren’t. And if you don’t grow up to be a writer, I’ll eat my arm.” It looks like she didn’t have to eat her arm! I think my first adult moment of calling myself a writer was my first paid BlogHer post. The editor even told me I could call myself a writer, a few times over. I did. I do. The link is HERE for my first ever paid writing job.

4 – Then I was asked in another interview: Have you always written so beautifully? Did you take a course, practice, or are you just gifted and awesome like that?

Well first of all, I’m blushing. Thank you. I have always written the way I do now – very expressively. I remember writing a note to my 4th grade teacher after seeing her cry one day, about how it touched me to see her sad. I left the note with a box of Valentine m&ms. She called me at home that night to tell me I expressed myself well. In 5th grade, it was the famous English teacher who told me that if I didn’t become a writer, she’d hunt me down one day. She was the one to tell me that my writing was very sad, so that I didn’t have to be. At least, not always. I took honors writing classes in high school and I majored in journalism in college, so I took many courses to get to where I am today, at least structure-wise. As for the expressive part of it, I was born that way. I think I’d go insane if I didn’t have this outlet.

5 – I figured out I wanted to be a writer around the same time, in 5th grade. I like to joke that I first wanted to be a writer when I learned how to write, but a lot of that time is a blur. I had to hone my new skill for years until I learned its power. In 5th grade, I had a pretty amazing English teacher. We kept those marble black and white composition books and we filled several of them throughout the year. She always pushed me farther than anyone ever had. She saw something in my writing that perhaps hadn’t existed to see until that year. My writing was always sad. I always wasn’t. It is still often like that for me.

6 – I always knew I wanted to write in life but I could never seem to find my focus. In grade school, it came easily and I was good at it. And I knew it too. Or at least I knew it because I didn’t have to try hard to do it and my teachers often praised me. I was creative too. I once wrote a story in 5th grade about the Man in the Moon and how he smiles at you if you’re a good person..and literally moons you if not. It was great. I had deep trauma in early childhood. I got high on life. I had a very vivid imagination. I was a good girl who always did everything she was asked and always completed assignments on time. These ingredients and more combined to make me a writer. I love photography, a LOT, but one writing compliment is worth ten photography compliments. Writing was what kept me safe and comforted as a child.

7 – In 5th grade, I really excelled in my English class. We had to keep journals full of stories – in those delicious black and white marbled books – and I did so with much gusto and zero abandon. I mean, I didn’t leave anything to the imagination. I filled those books cover to cover with just about anything in my head. For example, that was the year I started getting high on life and I detailed it in writing. For another example, I once wrote a story about the man in the moon and how he smiles at good people and literally…moons bad people. Like he pulls down his pants and lets certain undesirables see his butt crack. Yes, I wrote that. And yes, both my Homeroom teacher and my Math teacher heard about it in the teacher’s lounge and asked me if they could read it.

8 – One day, my English teacher said to me, “Aha, I get it!” And I asked what she got. I can’t remember this verbatim but this is pretty close. She said, “I get you! Your writing is so sad. And that is why…you’re not.” And I thought about this when I went home, and for days, and months, and years and decades after. And yes, she hit the nail on the head. I’m not saying I can transfer 100% of my pain and anger onto this blog. What I can say is that you’re not getting the full story. My laugher and smiles are being transferred onto time with my family. Sadness – it goes here.

9 -There are a couple of other school things that came up over the years. In 5th grade (go figure) English I had to do a creative writing story on a mermaid or something like that and I dreamed up the best report cover ever. The problem was that I couldn’t describe it for my mom, an artist, to draw for me so I had to do it myself. For some reason it came out so well that my teacher told me I could go pro with art. And I can’t draw to save my life most of the time!

Much love.