The emotional health and development of your child is just as important as their physical health and development — if not more so. Nurturing your child’s emotional health is a crucial part of ensuring that they grow up to be a happy and healthy adult.
Kids with a strong foundation of emotional and mental health will be able to maintain a positive outlook on life, manage conflict, set and achieve realistic goals, bounce back from tough times and challenges, enjoy healthy relationships with themselves and others, identify and manage their emotions well, and have a well-developed emotional intelligence.
Here are a few quick tips for parents to keep in mind to improve a child’s emotional health.
Champion Healthy Sleep
Helping your child develop healthy sleep habits contributes to their overall health and well-being. Getting enough sleep is vital for your child’s development and brain function. Model and encourage healthy habits for sleep, such as a bedtime routine, screen time limits, and a consistent sleep schedule.
Ensure a Proper Diet and Exercise
We all know the importance of a healthy diet and exercise on both mental and physical well-being. Making sure that your child gets regular physical activity and eats a healthy diet is critical for their emotional health. So is teaching them the life skills they will need later on, such as how to make healthy choices.
Encourage Healthy Relationships
The more close relationships kids are able to cultivate, the more gains they will see in their mental and emotional health. These relationships could be with family members, neighbors, church members, teachers, or other community leaders. Do what you can to encourage these relationships and model them for your children as well. And don’t forget to strengthen your own bond with your child by spending one-on-one time with them, participating in activities they enjoy, and being there for them when they need you.
Use Positive Reinforcement
Your communication with your child should be rich with encouragement and positive language. Criticism should be gentle and constructive, with frequent assurances of your love and support. Praise what they are doing well while working together with them on areas that need improvement.
Help Them Manage Their Emotions
From instructional charts in the classroom to catchy songs on YouTube, educators and child development specialists use whatever tools they can to teach the importance of emotional self-regulation. From an early age, teach your kids about emotions, what it means when they’re feeling them, and how to best manage them.
Listen to Understand
Your kids need to know that you are their greatest ally and that they can depend on you whenever they have a problem. From a young age, kids learn who they can talk to about what. If you won’t listen to the little stuff, how will they trust you for the big stuff? Make sure you take the time to stop and really listen to what your child has to say, and model for them good communication skills, even when you disagree.
Don’t Fear Failure
It’s easy (and natural) to want to fix all of your kids’ problems for them. But failure teaches kids important skills like perseverance, growth, and even empathy. So don’t be too quick to jump in the way of every learning opportunity.
Celebrate Their Wins
Encouraging your kids to try new things, set goals, and work hard toward a milestone are all great ways to ensure key markers of emotional health such as confidence and self-esteem.
Leave Room for Boredom
Not every minute of every day needs to be structured, and kids should have time to explore their own interests outside of scheduled time (and screen time). Allowing your kids to be bored lets them get creative and helps them learn to entertain themselves, both of which are important skills they will need as they get older.
Provide Boundaries and Structure
Kids who never learn boundaries in childhood will struggle to set their own boundaries later on in adulthood. A bit of structure in the household (including limits, rules, and boundaries) helps kids thrive in a safe environment and learn how they will be expected to behave in the real world.
If you have any questions or concerns about your child’s mental and emotional health, give us a call to schedule an appointment with one of our friendly board-certified pediatricians.