5 Tips to Boost Your Child’s Mental Health
Just like physical health, mental health is equally as meaningful when it comes to one’s quality of life. The human body does not remain unaffected by our emotions and feelings. As a matter of fact, poor mental health can have serious effects on our bodies such as weakened immune systems, heart disease, cancer and even diabetes.
Although we may only take these aliments into consideration for adults, it’s just as important to consider our children’s well-being when it comes to mental health. Mental Health America (MHA) notes that one in five children has a diagnosable mental health problem and when left untreated can disrupt children’s functioning at home, school and in the community. Fortunately, there are a myriad of ways that your child can improve their mental health:
1 | Connect with Loved Ones
Create a safe environment for your child to be able to talk about their feelings, thoughts and other emotions. Let them know that you care about what is going on in their life and actively listen to what they have to say without interrupting, arguing, or passing judgments. However, this can be easier said than done. Some children and parents find talking about mental health intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. You can ease the introduction to mental health by implementing resources for mental health such as podcasts that your child can listen to which discuss these issues on a relatable scale. These types of tools can help your child feel a sense of unity and normality knowing that they are not the only ones coping with these difficult emotions.
2 | Get in Tune with Oneself
Once you or your child recognize that they are struggling, it can be helpful to find avenues which allow them to express their feelings. Reading, journaling, music, and even art are minor, yet impactful ways for adolescents identify and express emotions. These activities, along with some daily exercise, can be considered proactive ways to relieve stress and release any pent up negative emotions.
3 | Sleep
MHA goes on to state that as children grow, their bodies’ relationship with sleep changes, resulting in the need for an increased amount of sleep per night. Inadequate sleep can contribute to trouble concentrating, mood swings, hyperactivity, nervousness, and aggressive behavior. One study linked sleep disruptions in adolescents to screen time remarking that children are twice as likely to experience a decrease in melatonin, a sleep hormone, than adults when exposed to screens. Parents can help teach their children when to put phones and other devices away, like during family meals and bedtime, by practicing such habits themselves. Parents can introduce their children to other habits like reading, writing, or drawing, “So that they’re not always reaching for that screen to entertain or serve as a calming strategy.”
4 | Nutrition
Research suggests that there a link between dietary habits and mental health conditions. In fact, one study showed that consuming fast food, sugar and soft drinks was associated with a higher prevalence of diagnosed attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It was also found that there is a correlation between a lack of omega-3 and brain function, including mental health problems. Omega-3 effects dopamine and serotonin (neurotransmitters which affect brain function) levels. An imbalance of these natural chemicals has been linked to mental health disorders, like depression. Foods high in omega-3 are fish, flax seeds, chia seeds, walnuts and soybeans just to name a few. There is a strong likelihood that our children are picky eaters to begin with, so it’s necessary to find ways to incorporate omega-3 into their diets. One enjoyable way to achieve this is through smoothies. Smoothies can be delicious and can be chock full of omega-3 and other nutrients that will be taste-test approved by some of the pickiest eaters. Try making a Chocolate Chia Smoothie:
- 400ml milk
- 100g plain greek yogurt
- 1 banana
- 1 tbsp cocoa powder
- 1 tbsp chia seeds
- 1 tbsp flaxseeds
- 2 tsp honey
Simply place the ingredients into a blender and blend until desired smoothness.
5 | Get Help When Necessary
It’s not always easy to decipher whether your child has a case of the blues or is developing symptoms of a mental health condition. Some warning signs may even come across as “growth hormones” especially in angsty teenagers. A majorwarning sign of mental illness among adolescents is feelings of sadness or withdrawal that last at least two weeks. If you’re concerned that your child is suffering from a mental health condition, seek help through professionals such as a primary doctor, psychiatrist or psychologist. They will be able to make any appropriate diagnoses and guide your child to the right treatment plan, be it medication or therapy.