Promoting Your Child's MHWB
“As parents and carers, there are many ways we can support our children to give them the best chance to stay mentally healthy.
Encouraging and guiding a child to think about their own mental health and wellbeing are vital skills you can teach them from a young age.”
NHS Children’s Mental Health – Every Mind Matters
“We shouldn’t just look after our mental wellbeing when we’re struggling. It should be something we do all the time. That’s why it’s an important habit to teach children and young people.”
Maintaining good mental health is just as important as having a healthy body. It affects the way children think, feel and act. As a parent, you play an important role in promoting your child’s mental health and recognising when there may be early signs of difficulties.
But how can you promote good mental health?
Watch the video below for some great advice
Ways You Can Support Your Child
Be a role model – be open and show how you cope with difficult feelings and look after yourself. Children learn so much by watching others round them, so try and model an openness about these feelings. Verbalise them and help children develop a rich vocabulary to describe how they are feeling. Rather than simply saying your day was ‘okay’ or ‘good’, try to discuss different emotions you felt throughout your day when talking with your child – and talk to them about how you handled your emotions in that situation. This teaches them that feelings are normal, provides suggestions about how to handle the feelings and gives children the vocabulary to talk about a wider range of emotions affecting them.
In school, we have an emotions vocabulary bank that is displayed in every classroom. It builds, year on year, so that children can develop their vocabulary for talking about how they are feeling.
Make mistakes – show them that everyone is human and that we all make mistakes. By drawing attention to mistakes that you make, you can model effective ways of dealing with mistakes and difficult situations (e.g. calming down, saying that you are sorry, explaining that you recognise that you made a mistake and what you will do to stop it from happening again). The children will learn from you that it is okay to make mistakes and this will help build their resilience.
Play together – play helps children to be curious, learn new things, solve problems and express feelings without words
Value them as individuals - recognise their strengths and acknowledge this by drawing attention to them when you notice them (e.g. I saw you picking up the toys that your brother left out – that was really kind of you). Verbalising these character traits and strengths will help feed into a child’s sense of self and self-worth.
Provide positive feedback and encouragement – children love to receive positive feedback and praise that lets them know that they have done something well. Knowing they’ve done something well increases feelings of pride and self-confidence, which can stick with children long-term. In addition, providing positive reinforcement for behaviours will often encourage children to repeat that behaviour.
Be there to listen – Regularly ask your child how they’re doing/feeling, to help them get used to talking about their emotions, and know that there is always someone there to listen
Encourage their interests – Support and encourage your child to explore their interests. Being active or creative, learning new things and being part of a team will help them to connect and will boost their mental wellbeing.
Take what they say seriously – Listening to, and valuing what they say makes them feel valued and secure. They might need help to work through their emotions in constructive ways.
Build positive routines – try to have structure around regular routines, especially around healthy eating and exercise. A good night’s sleep is also important, so have a fixed time for going to bed and getting up.
Set (and achieve) goals – This can be linked to anything. Maybe they would like to be able to run (or walk) a mile, or make their own lunch. You can help them to achieve this and show them how to break their goal down into manageable sections. Achieving goals is great for boosting wellbeing and raises self-esteem.
Stay involved in their life – show interest in their life and what’s important to them. It not only helps them value who they are, but also makes it easier for you to spot problems and support them.
Involve them in decision making – As adults, we feel we know what’s best for our child, and so children are often left out of the decision-making process. Of course, on many occasions it is more appropriate for the parents to make the decisions, however finding ways to include your child in making decisions can help them feel that they are heard and valued in their home. Something as simple as asking them what they would like to have for dinner can show them that they have a ‘voice’ and give them the confidence to use it.
Support them through difficulties – Pay attention to how your child is feeling or behaving and try to help them work through difficulties. It may not be easy facing challenging behaviour, but try to help them understand what they’re feeling and why.
Further Information On How To Promote Your Child’s MHWB