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.
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.
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.