Let's face it. The news is filled with stories of school shootings, shooters at the mall, subways and other public areas. Your child is seeing and hearing all of this and some are developing anxiety about the upcoming school year and being out in public.
They may not say anything to you, but please know they are talking about it among themselves and they are scared. Your child's mental health is just as important as their physical health. The sooner you can teach them good habits for a healthy mind, the better. Here are some activities you can do with your children:
Encourage Your Child to Express Emotions
Expressing emotions is an important part of a child’s development. The more your child communicates his or her feelings, the better you can help your child understand and cope with difficult situations.
- Listen to your child and accept his or her feelings. Show that you care by asking questions about what is going on in their mind and listening carefully so that he or she feels understood.
- Encourage your children to draw pictures when they are upset; this is one way for them to express their feelings through art if they can't find the right words. Let them know that they don't have to be a good artist, they may just want to color a blob on the paper. Let them! It's the transference of that energy that will help them calm down and be able to later communicate more effectively.
Teach Your Kids How To Deal With Anger and Stress
By helping them learn how to deal with their emotions, you're giving your children a tool they can use for the rest of their lives.
- Teach your kids how to breathe deeply: It's hard for anyone—child or adult—to get angry if they're sitting calmly and breathing deeply. If your child is stressed out by something that happened at school or play, help them practice taking slow deep breaths until they feel calmer. After they've taken a few deep breaths and slowed their breathing, ask them to tell you calmly what has them so anxious or upset. Let them know that in that moment, you are in a no judgement zone and you just need them to open up and be honest.
- Teach your kids how to do something physical: Whether it's running around outside, kicking a ball against the wall or punching some pillows (don't worry about making a mess), by giving themselves space from an upsetting situation can help them regain control over it in no time.
Help Your Kids Develop Self-Esteem
Self-esteem is important for kids and adults alike. It can be hard to define, but one thing that sets it apart from self-confidence is that self-esteem refers to the belief in yourself, whereas self-confidence refers to a person's ability to perform tasks or activities with skill and competence. Your child’s self-esteem will increase when they do things on their own—like dressing appropriately, making a simple lunch, or mastering a skill in sports—and when they feel good about themselves after doing something well (even if it was just making a drawing) their esteem soars.
Identify the Triggers of Anxiety and Depression
Once you’ve identified the triggers of your child’s anxiety or depression, it’s time to help them cope with these feelings in a healthy way. Children who are struggling with anxiety and depression may benefit from:
- Acknowledging their feelings—even if they don't understand or want to talk about them
- Talking through their worries with someone else (like parents, teachers or other trusted adults) who can listen without judging
- Doing things that make them feel good, like playing sports or video games, listening to music, etc.
- Finding new activities that interest them (such as an art class, new sport, STEM activites, learn a new language, etc.)
Create a Peaceful Bedtime Routine
- Create a peaceful bedtime routine. A well-established sleep routine is the best way to help your child sleep better and feel more rested in the morning. A night-time routine can be as simple as turning off all electronics an hour before bedtime, reading a book, saying prayers and then laying down for bed. Make sure that they stick with this same sequence each night so it becomes an ingrained habit.
- Establishing good habits early in life will make it easier later when children get older; regular routines also help them learn how to self-soothe themselves when they’re upset or bored.
- It also helps your child know what to expect (and what not) each day if there are clear boundaries around things like: meals, snacks and play time—as this will set the stage for them being able to fall asleep without difficulty at night when it is time to go to bed!
As parents you often worry about whether or not your kids have enough energy during the day. How do we ensure that our children are getting enough rest? The trick is creating a calm environment where everybody feels safe enough so they can relax without being distracted by external pressures outside of their home environment!
Talk, Listen, Listen and Listen!
Being a good listener is essential to mental health. It can be hard to remember sometimes, but listening is important for everyone, not just children. When you’re in a conversation with another person, try to make sure that you are really listening and understanding what they are saying. Too many people listen with the intent to respond instead of really hearing the other person. If someone starts talking about something that doesn’t interest you, try and find something interesting about their story or topic so that you can connect with them on the same level.
When we listen, we learn from each other by sharing our experiences and opinions of the world around us. This helps us become better communicators because we have more topics in common than when there was silence between us (or no one wanted to talk). Asking questions also shows respect for another person’s thoughts and ideas—so don't forget this step as well!
You can use active listening skills by repeating back what your child has said so far (e.g., “So school was really tough today?…your friend made you mad or hurt your feelings?…and you're mad at your sibling because….”). This way they know how much attention they're getting while speaking to you; it also helps you see if any details were missed during the conversation!
Allot Time for Unstructured Free Play
Unstructured free play is important for young children because it helps them to develop physical and social skills, learn how to be independent, and practice making good and safe choices. Here are some tips for encouraging unstructured free play:
- Encourage your child to choose what activity he or she wants to do when it's time for unstructured free play. For example, you could say: "You can choose whether you want us to read a story or play with Legos first." This will give your child a sense of control over what happens next.
- Make sure that there are enough toys available so that everyone gets a turn at each one—and then if someone else wants it next, offer a compromise or another toy instead!
Teach Positive Self-Talk
Positive self-talk is a great activity to do with young children because it’s so simple and easy to teach. It can be incorporated into other activities too. The most important part of teaching positive self-talk is to make sure that your child understands what it means.
Start off by talking about the fact that when people say negative things about themselves (or others), it hurts their feelings and makes them feel bad about themselves. This can lead to low self-esteem, which can then lead to depression or anxiety down the line in life. Then explain how we should always be nice to ourselves, friends and family—and sometimes even strangers—because everyone deserves respect!
You could also talk about how saying positive things makes us feel better inside, much like when we exercise or eat healthy food; however you want your child’s mind set up for positive thinking at all times! For example: “I am strong! I can lift this heavy object easily!" Or maybe something more specific like "I am beautiful. I am smart. I believe in myself." If your child wants help coming up with some phrases he/she likes, try asking him/her questions like "What makes you special? What is the best part about you?"
Teach Your Child To Be Assertive But Not Aggressive
- Teach your child to be assertive, not aggressive. Your child will learn better how to cope with their emotions if you teach them how to stand up for themselves without crossing the line into being aggressive.
- Model proper behavior and communication skills for yourself and your children by using I-messages when you're feeling upset or angry, as well as giving them plenty of opportunities to practice expressing themselves effectively in their own lives (such as role playing situations where they must confront someone who has wronged them).
Help your kids develop positive mental health habits early on.
- Help your kids develop positive mental health habits early on.
- Keep an eye out for signs of anxiety or depression. It can happen to anyone at any age.
- Create a peaceful bedtime routine that helps your child relax before going to sleep.
- Teach positive self-talk and help them learn how to be assertive without being aggressive.
In order to provide your child with the best opportunity for a healthy mental health, it's important to start early. The activities in this post give you a few ideas about how you can work on building important skills like self-esteem and confidence. It’s never too early to begin learning how important it is to take care of yourself!