Raising Mentally Healthy Children

If you’ve ever dived into research about methods on raising kids, odds are you’ve come across tens of thousands of articles with tips, tricks and suggestions. While sifting through these opinions, testing them out here and there, you’ve probably discovered that what might work with one child doesn’t work with another. Personality differences in your children can play a large role in the ways you parent.

The good news is, while personality differences do play a role in how children process and receive your parenting, there are methods to raising mentally healthy children that ring tried and true. If your goal is mentally healthy children, consider implementing some of these strategies into your parenting repertoire.

1. Send them outdoors

It’s amazing what a little fresh air will do for the soul. Being outside, even for forty-five minutes a day, promotes physical and mental health in kids. They become connected with nature in an exploratory way, examining bugs, watching a bird hunt for worms, arranging a dandelion bouquet or creating creatures in the clouds. The outdoors promote exercise (riding a bike, skateboarding) and creativity (drawing with chalk) and instill a respect and love of nature. 

That, and you get a little peace and quiet.

2. Limit screen-time

Kids with 24/7 access to screens lose creativity and the ability to entertain themselves. They won’t pick up a book for entertainment or suggest playing a board game. Screens are isolating, immediately gratifying and addicting. By limiting the amount of time spent in front of a screen, you can encourage hobbies, crafts and projects. This method of “finding something to do” allows kids to conquer their own boredom and entertain themselves in a healthy, productive way.

3. Let children experience natural consequences

No one wants to see their child fail, but some of life’s greatest lessons are learned through failure. Natural consequences are the effect of a cause – so if a child forgets to bring his grammar homework to school, the effect could be a low grade. If your daughter forgets her ballet slippers, she might be dancing barefoot today. It’s not any form of punishment, it’s just the way life goes.

It’s important for your child to learn these effects rather than have a parent swoop in and save the day each time, teaching them that they don’t need to take responsibility for their oversights. On the contrary, if children are required to accept the consequences of their actions, they will be better prepared to take responsibility next time. 

4. Don’t give in to misbehavior

Stopping a tantrum by giving your child what they want might save you gray hairs in the moment, but will only cause more trouble later. Children learn really quickly that “If I scream, my parents will give me what I want.” And this won’t stop after the terrible twos. If children get what they want by causing a scene, they will bring this mentality into their teens and into adulthood.

5. Avoid saying “It’s going to be ok” 

Children have feelings just as you do. When someone discredits your fears or feelings by saying, “Don’t worry about it,” or “It’s not a big deal,” it can lead to confusion, guilt, shame and/or feeling silly. If your child is worried about a science test or starting a new grade level, don’t dismiss it. Talk to them about these fears/feelings and guide them towards a positive outcome, where children face fears and insecurities as they arise.

6. Problem-solve with them, not for them

If you solve all of your child’s problems for them, your children grow up incapable of handling their own. By helping them build problem-solving skills from the get-go, they’ll be better equipped at handling difficulties down the road. You can raise mentally healthy children by working alongside them to solve their problems, giving them advice and guidance when needed, but ultimately allowing them to come to their own reasonable solutions. 

7. Allow them to be kids

If you expect perfection in everything, it’s likely your child will feel like a failure. Of course you want your child to do well in school and extracurriculars, but expecting an A on every test, the winning score in every competition or a solo in every recital is just too much pressure for a child to endure. Give them permission to be the best they can be in all they do, so when they don’t get 100%, their world doesn’t collapse around them.

8. Discuss their feelings

Most parents are all for physical health, but mental health in a child is just as important. Helping a child process their feelings about something leads to emotional awareness, gratitude and positivity. If your child is sad, ask them why and listen. Discuss with them what caused the sadness, what they can do to overcome it and applaud them for handling it versus becoming controlled by it. If children are taught to acknowledge and process their feelings, they’re less likely to bottle them up and explode or cope in destructive ways.

9. Be consistent

Children become trusting, confident individuals if their parents are consistent in their expectations, methods of discipline and means of praise. When disciplining your child, make sure the consequence matches the offense and isn’t a measure of your own frustration coming out. In addition, make sure your children know what you expect – this prevents them from living in fear and gives them freedom when they know their limits. 

Raising kids is no small task, and sometimes it requires help. Our staff at Mazzitti & Sullivan Counseling offer advice for all parents looking to raise mentally strong children by providing them with life-long skills, from problem-solving to healthy strategizing. Call 1-800-809-2925 today, for adolescent counseling services that help your children prioritize mental health from an early age.