October is Depression and Mental Health Awareness Month and October 10th is WHO World Mental Health Day, so I want to share a few tips as to how parents can help support their child's mental health.
Model healthy coping skills
You can help your child learn to deal with their emotions in a healthy way by modeling coping skills at home. Talk through activities such as deep breathing, using stress balls, making art, going for walks or whatever other (healthy) ways you have for dealing with stress.
Watch for behavior changes in your children
It's very normal for children to have behavioral changes as they move through different ages and stages of development. However, if you ever notice that your child is becoming very withdrawn or isolated from friends, family or their normal routine, it may be a sign that they are struggling to process a situation or feeling in their life. Check in with them and reassure them that you're there to support them however they need. Don't be afraid to seek help from a mental health professional.
Cultivate open and honest communication
It's important that your children know they can come to you with anything and they will be listened to with love and support. Letting your child know you are there to support and listen to them without judgement can really increase the chances they will come to you when they are struggling.
Create routines and boundaries at home
Uncertainty about daily schedules can lead to a lot of stress or anxiety in a child's life. Having a general routine at home gives children a lot of relief and peace. Having clear boundaries is similarly important - your child needs to know what is expected of them at home. This helps minimize feelings of frustration from both parent and child.
Provide plenty of positive feedback, support, and encouragement
For a child, one of the most important gifts you can give them is an environment where they know they are loved and feel important. They need to know they are supported no matter what they do. This helps them enjoy feelings of security and safety in their home. Kids also love receiving positive feedback when they've done something well. Knowing they've done something well builds their self-confidence and can stick with a child long term.
Talk about emotions and feelings regularly
Kids learn so much from watching their parents, including emotional expression and regulation. Discuss different feelings you felt throughout your day when talking to your child. Also share how you handled your emotions in those situations. This teaches them that feelings are normal, provides suggestions on how to handle the feelings, and gives them the vocabulary to talk about a wider range of emotions.