Our health is so much more than what we feel in our bodies; it also extends to our emotional and mental well-being at all ages and stages of life.
Something that might sound like a concern that only an adult would face can affect kids, too, and at all ages – even preschoolers. Pressure, worries, and anxiety are also things young people struggle with as they grow up.
As adults, our first thoughts might be to ask, “What do kids have to stress about?” Work, bills, and other responsibilities might top adults’ lists of stressors, but young people have a lot to cope with, too.
Being over-scheduled, feeling pressured to compete or perform in extra-curricular activities, and school can all impact a young person’s emotional health.
But there are ways parents can promote well-being at home, for all ages. Here are some tips to help get you started:
1. Be mindful that growing up isn’t easy. Childhood can be happy and carefree – as life can be at any age – but it can also be full of change, insecurity, and uncertainty as young people face challenges and learning opportunities for the first time and develop their identities along the way.
2. Model acceptance. Show that you accept others as they are – including your child – and help them do the same. There are many ways to “be” in the world, and it’s important that each of us is able to be comfortable in our skin and feel supported by those around us as we develop and grow.
3. Find everyday examples to start discussions. Song lyrics, movies, and news stories can all provide opportunities to build a dialogue with your child. These conversations can happen in the car, while making dinner, or as you’re out running an errand. Keep them casual: “What do you this song means?” Or, “have you been talking about this event in school at all?”
4. Learn together. Find ways for you and your child to improve your mental health literacy. If there is a story about mental health in the news, for example, why not do some research online together about it? Visiting trusted, credible sources can help your family stay informed, and doing this together can help encourage your child to talk to you about how they’re feeling.
5. If your child is experiencing mental health struggles that might impact their daily routines, ask them how – or if – they want to communicate this information to other friends or family. There is no shame in having a mental health struggle. Avoid saying things like, “Grandma won’t believe that you are going through this,” or, “I just don’t know how we’ll explain this to your coach.”
And while it is important for parents to find support through friends, colleagues, or professionals, it is also important to respect that your child might not want their struggles widely shared. Posting personal information about your child or teen on social media is another thing to be mindful of – it can stay online for a long time and might not be the kind of information your child wants online as they get older.
Be respectful of both their needs and your own, and work together on finding ways to move forward. Finding solutions as a team will help build trust and communication between you and your child.
6. Be mindful of what you talk about around your child. While it’s important to communicate openly with kids, it’s also important not to create unnecessary stress for them. Be mindful of how you talk about your own problems, like a disagreement with a friend or a bad day at work.
7. Create a set of codes or signals that you and your child can use if you need to talk about a sensitive subject. It might be something they can send in a text, or a hand signal they can give to you at the breakfast table. This can let you know to find some quiet, private time to talk together, and it shows your child that they can count on you to always be there.
More support can be found at KidsHelpPhone.ca.