Promoting positive mental health is essential for all families, whether biological, foster, or adoptive. Children’s emotional well-being greatly impacts their behaviour, academic performance, relationships, and overall quality of life. As parents and carers, there are many ways we can support our children’s mental health from an early age. In this article, we will provide several tips to help nurture mental well-being in your family.

1. Model Healthy Coping Strategies

Children observe and learn from their parents’ reactions to stress and difficult emotions. When you face challenges, try to demonstrate positive coping methods like deep breathing, going for a walk, or talking to a friend. Avoid unhealthy strategies like yelling, criticising yourself, or drinking excessively. Show children it’s normal to feel upset sometimes, but you can get through it with self-care.

2. Validate Their Feelings

Children need to feel understood. When your child expresses difficult emotions like anger, anxiety, or sadness, don’t criticise or dismiss them. Say things like “I understand this is upsetting” or “It’s okay to feel sad sometimes.” Validate their feelings while also guiding them toward constructive ways of coping. This teaches emotional intelligence.

3. Maintain Open Communication

Make regular time to talk with your children without distractions. Have family dinners where you all share about your day. Before bed, chat about any concerns on their mind. Maintaining open, judgement-free communication helps children feel comfortable confiding in you about mental health struggles.

4. Practice Gratitude

Cultivating an attitude of gratitude boosts happiness and well-being. Encourage your family to share things they’re grateful for during dinner or at bedtime. Keep a gratitude journal where family members write down something positive each day. Expressing gratitude regularly trains our brains to focus on the good.

5. Set A Consistent Routine

Structure and predictability help children feel safe and secure. Establish regular routines around mealtimes, bedtimes, school/work schedules, and extracurriculars. Make sure children get enough sleep for healthy development. Consistency provides comfort and teaches time management skills.

6. Limit Screen Time

Excessive screen time has negative effects on mental health, like anxiety, depression, and reduced sleep. Set limits on recreational screen usage for the whole family. Designate screen-free times, like during meals and for an hour before bedtime. Find active alternatives like reading, sports, board games, and spending time outdoors.

7. Teach Healthy Coping Skills

Equip children early on with positive ways to handle emotions like anger, worry, and sadness. Useful skills include deep breathing, exercise, listening to music, writing or drawing how they feel, and talking to someone they trust. Have them practice these when calm – it will prepare them to use coping skills when upset.

8. Make Time For Your Own Self-Care

Raising children is stressful. Ensure you make time each day for your own self-care through exercise, socialising, relaxing hobbies, etc. Children learn from our example. When parents actively take care of their mental health, children are more likely to adopt this mindset, too. Aim to model work-life balance.

9. Get Outside In Nature

Spending time in nature is proven to lower stress and boost moods. Take family walks, bike rides, or trips to the park several times per week. Go camping together occasionally. Unstructured outdoor playtime should be an everyday part of children’s routines. Enjoy and appreciate the natural world together.

10. Seek Help When Needed

If you notice sustained changes in your child’s moods, behaviours, or interests, don’t hesitate to reach out for professional support. Speak to your GP, and when fostering with a fostering agency like Orange Grove Foster Care, talk to your supervising social worker. Getting the right help early prevents issues from worsening and leads to better outcomes.

11. Encourage Physical Activity

Regular exercise is vital for both physical and mental health. Get children involved in sports teams or active hobbies like dance, martial arts, or gymnastics. Take family bike rides, go swimming, or play active games together. Limit sedentary time and promote movement. Physical activity reduces stress, anxiety, and depression.

12. Teach Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand and manage emotions effectively. Teach children to recognise feelings in themselves and others through books, games, and discussion. Help them put labels on emotions and express them constructively. Role-play emotional situations to build empathy and conflict-resolution skills. High emotional intelligence leads to success.

13. Maintain Their Social Connections

Positive friendships contribute greatly to mental well-being. Make an effort to help your child maintain social connections by scheduling playdates and participating in group activities. Teach them prosocial skills like cooperation, communication, and kindness that help build strong relationships. Monitor time spent alone and watch for social isolation.

14. Promote Their Passions & Strengths

Helping children identify and develop their natural talents, interests, and strengths does wonders for their confidence and purpose. Pay attention to what they enjoy and are good at. Enable them to explore passions through lessons, clubs, volunteering, or family projects. Recognise small accomplishments.

15. Prioritise Sleep

Sleep is essential to mental health, yet it’s often overlooked. Children need 9-12 hours per night, while teens need 8-10. Set an appropriate bedtime and stick to it, even on weekends. Establish a calming pre-bed routine. Remove electronics from the bedrooms. Ensure sleeping spaces are cool, dark, and comfortable. Teach children the importance of quality sleep for their bodies and minds.

16. Model Healthy Conflict Resolution

Children learn relationship skills primarily through observing parents’ interactions. Strive to resolve conflict with your partner in a calm, respectful manner. Listen to each other, validate emotions, and find compromises. Apologise when you make mistakes. Show children that even when you disagree, you still care deeply about each other. This provides a blueprint for their own relationships.

17. Discuss Mental Health Openly

End the stigma around mental health by discussing it openly in age-appropriate ways. Teach children that it’s normal to face challenges like grief, anxiety, anger, or insecurity sometimes. Share your own experiences. Explain that mental health problems are common and treatable. Encourage them to ask for help when needed. Promoting openness prevents shame.

Prioritising mental health helps both children and parents thrive. Incorporate some of the tips above into your family’s regular routine. Promoting positive mental health habits in childhood leads to lifelong benefits.