Oftentimes when we think of self care we think of adults; managing work, taking care of families and everything in between that occurs as our lives mature and evolve. However, children are not exempt from stressors of their own, and they too benefit significantly from self care. As parents, it’s vital to teach our children practical ways to cope with stress and other emotions for a healthy mental well-being that will follow kids into adulthood.
Here are six self care practices to help children maintain positive mental health:
1. Recognize and learn about common mental health illnesses found in children:
The most common mental health disorders seen in children are Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Anxiety, Depression and Suicide.
By educating children about symptoms and diagnoses, along with increasing our awareness of the available mental health resources for kids, we can take the critical first steps toward helping children manage their mental well-being and the disorders affecting them.
2. Facilitate a welcoming environment for conversation:
There is a stigma commonly associated with mental health that prevents people from talking about their struggles. Aid in breaking the stigma by inviting conversation about mental health in an environment free of criticism or judgment.
Lending an ear, as well as expressing compassion and empathy, can make kids feel understood and accepted, which will empower them to keep the dialogue going. A helpful reminder is to communicate at an age-appropriate level so that your child feels comfortable and can take away more from the conversation.
3. Encourage engaging in physical exercise:
A great stress release for children is exercise. The CDC recommends that kids exercise for 60 minutes a day to maintain a healthy well-being. It’s not only a productive way to stay fit physically but mentally as well.
Playing outside with friends or joining a club team is an excellent opportunity to work out any pent-up stress in addition to cultivating social skills. Not to mention the benefits that physical activity can have on a child’s mindset; trying a new sport, or recreational activity can teach kids to work towards a goal and boost their confidence when they achieve it.
4. Limit technology time:
Children today will not know a time without smartphones and tablets. It’s up to parents and caregivers to limit their screen time and encourage them to engage in person to person interaction.
Technology, while it has its benefits, can lead to a decrease in self-sufficiency and creativity in children. Additionally, in their older years, adolescents may be impacted by the adverse side effects of social media, i.e., cyberbullying.
Remind kids to take time to disconnect. Let kids be kids and invite them to enjoy life outside of their screen.
5. Instill a sense of responsibility:
Helping children manage tasks at a young age will benefit their overall mindset by providing them with a sense of responsibility and purpose. Gradually increasing what a child is responsible for like filling the dog’s water dish or watering plants will help kids learn to prioritize tasks, improve time management skills, and enable a sense of accountability.
To make this strategy more appealing, consider tasking your child the responsibility of helping prepare a meal. They will still learn core values while being able to add their creative flair. Bonus: teaching your child how to cook provides them with a new skill that can increase their sense of confidence. No matter how in-depth or straightforward the task at hand is, completing these undertakings will only set them up for success as they grow older.
6. Embrace a creative outlet:
Words can be hard to use to articulate complicated feelings at times. So when words fail, using creative outlets can allow children to hone in on their true feelings. Rather than internalizing emotions, children can express them through drawing, painting, coloring, music, dance, etc.
Artistic avenues can serve as a great and natural opportunity to then talk about the art your child is producing. Without realizing that they are talking about their feelings, they will explain the choices that they made in their art and how it makes them feel.
Deep-rooted self care habits maintain good mental health by encouraging personal growth and healthy forms of emotional expression. When kids form self care routines, they establish the foundation for long-term well-being.
Jumo Health provides authentic, relatable, age-appropriate health resources and education for the entire family.