5 Things You Can Do to Promote Your Child’s Mental Health
As a father or a mother, you are keenly aware of the role parenting plays in the development of a happy, healthy, and well-adjusted child. A child’s parents are the biggest facilitators in his or her psychological growth. While no two children are alike, here are five things all parents can do to promote their child’s mental health.
Give your child unconditional love
The love that a parent feels for her child is unparalleled. Parental love is the bedrock of the mental structure of a child. As a parent, the best thing you can do to ensure that your child has a healthy psychological development is to love her unconditionally.
Loving your child unconditionally means that your love towards your child should be free of conditions or restrictions. You must accept your child as she or he is. There should be no spoken or unspoken message going out to your child that she has to be someone else to earn your love.
Unconditional love means love without strings attached. It helps build self-esteem and confidence in the child. It prevents your child from developing an unhealthy sense of self and saves her from relationship troubles later in life.
Assure your child a safe and secure surrounding
There are two places where your child has the maximum social interactions and mental growth—home and school. A safe and secure physical, social, and psychological environment at home and school ensures positive mental development of the child.
The physical environment must be designed to prevent accidents during play of all kinds—from the exploratory phase of a toddler to the vigorous play of six-year-old. Floors, windows, furniture, balconies, playgrounds, electricals, stairs, cabinets, chemicals, and such should be well thought out to prevent inadvertent injuries to the child.
Is the home or school environment harbouring abusive or violent people? Are the parents and teachers caring towards the child? Do the parents love and respect each other? Are they expressive in their love towards their child, both verbally and physically? These factors have a tremendous impact on a child’s mental well-being. A safe psychological environment means a peaceful and stable home, consistent role models, well-trained teachers, and friendly classmates.
Ensure good physical health of your child
We all know about the mind–body connect and the fact that in a healthy body resides a healthy mind. Children who suffer poor health fail to thrive. Apart from reduced physical development, their mental development is also curtailed. The strength, energy, and enthusiasm that come from good health have no substitutes.
Therefore, it is extremely important that apart from a safe physical environment, you must also provide your child with balanced nutrition, opportunities for physical activity, and timely and appropriate health care.
Encourage play and social interactions
We all learn to interact with different categories of people in our lives—parents, siblings, friends, teachers, authority figures, opposite sex, and strangers. To develop the mental templates for healthy relationships, a child must be exposed to various interactive situations. This is where play and other social interactions are vital.
Play is essential for a child because it contributes to the physical, cognitive, social, and emotional development of a child. Play develops imagination, dexterity, decision-making, negotiating skills, teamwork, leadership, and many such skills in a child. A child should be allowed both supervised and unsupervised play to learn to stand on one’s own.
At the same time, children should be encouraged to participate in social activities like theatre, sports, games, music, marches, campaigns, projects, programmes, etc., where they can learn hard skills as well as soft skills that will help them in their adult life.
Help your child develop resilience
Life is not always rosy. Like you, your child too will face all kinds of trauma, adversity, stresses—from injury to low grades, from bullying to loss in sports, or even death of a pet or a chronic illness. In recent times, there has been greater awareness of ‘resilience’ as a critical life skill. Resilience is the ability to adapt to adverse events and circumstances positively.
As a parent, you will have to help your child understand her circumstances in a way that she comes out of it with a positive frame of mind. Show her the big picture; tell her how losses are temporary; explain how grades are important but not the most important; train her to become better at facing bullies; give examples from your own life; inspire her with stories. To learn that adversity is not the end of one’s story is a fundamental lesson these days, especially in the context of today’s hyper-competitive economic environment.