Published by Casey Parr
Self-care is a learned skill for children. While not all mental health issues can be prevented, it is important to give your child the tools they can use to regulate their emotions and learn important coping skills. Here are some practices you can incorporate into your day-to-day family life for positive mental health.
- Talk about and validate feelings. Naming your own feelings helps children learn how to calmly understand what they are feeling. If they are having trouble finding the words to describe what they are feeling, try using a feelings wheel or other tool that shows them some emotion words they can use.
- Teach them to calm themselves. When your children are overwhelmed, try one of the following activities so they can learn to regulate.
- Breathing Activity: Flower Breaths – Have your child draw a flower on one side of a piece of paper and a birthday candle on the other side. You can also draw the outline and have them color it in. First “smell the flower” by taking a big breath in through your nose. Then “blow out the candle” by breathing out through the mouth. The pictures help kids understand better how they need to breathe by giving a concrete example.
- Muscle Relaxation: Making Lemonade – In order to make pretend lemonade, we need to squeeze all the juice out of our lemon. So take your ball, toy, or pretend lemon in one hand and squeeze really hard, count to 3, then let go. Do the same with the other hand.
- Set aside alone time. Don’t forget to set aside time for your children to be alone, but also for yourself. One important thing you can do for your child’s mental health is to make sure you take care of yourself. Kids learn to take care of themselves by watching how you do the same!
- Be consistent. Change is unavoidable in a child’s life so anything you can do to bring consistency to their life is important. Maintaining consistent expectations and discipline helps them know what to expect and feel safer.
- Play outside. Run around outside, take a walk, or play in the snow together! Getting outside is important for children to burn off energy and to get in touch with nature. It’s also an opportunity for families to connect. Whenever possible, make sure to spend time outside as a family every day.
Taking care of your child’s mental health doesn’t have to be complicated. Working in these simple habits helps children learn to regulate their emotions and take care of themselves.
What steps will you take to ensure your child is mentally healthy?