As the new school year begins, many parents and teachers are finding themselves concerned about the mental health of children. And with good reason: kids’ mental health is in crisis. The normal ups and downs of childhood and adolescence, combined with safety concerns, environmental changes, family financial security, social media issues and more can make for an extremely difficult situation.
There are many ways to support and nurture our children’s mental health, but the first step is acknowledging and encouraging positive mental health habits. As kids head back to school, they may be feeling anxious, nervous, overwhelmed, excited and more. We can help navigate these times by giving them the tools they need as they go back to school.
- Model healthy behavior. Being open and honest with your own feelings and struggles, in an age-appropriate way, can give children guidance on how to talk about their own feelings. It also helps build trust and allow them to feel safe talking to you when they need support.
- Listen and ask open-ended questions. Paying close attention to children’s verbal and nonverbal cues can give important insight into what your child is experiencing. Responding with empathetic questions and giving advice as needed will build a bridge and open a line of communication.
- Encourage healthy habits. A healthy mind requires a healthy body, so prioritizing getting enough sleep, eating well and exercising can really make a difference in your child’s mental state.
- Give love and care. Sometimes a simple hug showing your love can make all the difference. Humans thrive on connection, and unconditional love is a gift that can give your child confidence and self-assurance.
- Celebrate achievements. You can help your children build their self-esteem by giving them responsibilities, teaching resilience and recognizing and celebrating their achievements. Encourage them to try again when they fail and let them know that you are behind them, cheering them on.