Emotionally Healthy Children
Mental health and kids and raising emotionally healthy children has been on my mind lately. I was up late the other other night flipping through Pinterest when I came across an article that struck a cord with me. Then I saw a recent post about a pastor that had taken his own life after battling with depression and anxiety leaving a beautiful wife and two boys. The epidemic of mental health afflictions are on the rise and it got me thinking “am I doing what I can to help?”
Then I went down my normal rabbit hole of research and found some key points to helping our children to be raised as emotionally healthy as possible. We all want that. We want to raise kids who know their value, believe in themselves, and can stand up to inequalities, but our we showing them those qualities?
it will always start at home
I have dealt with some form of depression my entire life. I was raised in a broken home with a sibling who tragically died at the age of 10 (I was 12), I was with him, I saw it. I had a father who was a drug addict till his last dying days, and a mother who tried to hold it all together. I don’t tell you these things to make you feel sorry for me, but to show you we all come from some kind of heartache.
My parents did the best they could with the information they had, but it doesn’t come as a surprise to me that I’ve dealt with depression.That’s a lot for a kid you know? Those pinnacle times in my childhood made me the adult I am today.
I also say all these things to get you thinking about your own mental health. We come from what we know and I sure want my kids to see emotionally healthy adults in our household. That will look differently for everyone, but if you want your kids to grow up with a solid foundation of what a mentally healthy person looks like, you have to be one. That may mean going to counseling yourself, making an appointment with your doctor to talk about symptoms of depression, or simply taking the time to make yourself a priority.
Computers, iPhones, iPads, video games, all of it comes with some sort of consequences. I wrote a piece awhile back (An Unpopular Opinion) that was one of my top read blog posts. Do you know why? Because we all worry about the amount of technology/screen time our kids get. We have one child who does not handle electronics well at all. He becomes aggressive, combative, and disrespectful if to much time to spent in front of a screen.
We are not hard wired to be in front of screens for long periods of time. Our bodies were made to be in nature, swim, hike, bike, serve, & be around community. Unfortunately, family time has become something you have to schedule. Trust me, we’re right there with you. A lot of school days the kids come home, snacks are given, and then they want to sit in front of the tv like zombies.
Unfortunately, most adults are just as addicted to their screens as much as kids are. How many times do you check your phone during the day? Emails, notifications, social media messages, I get it. I run a business and feel like I’m constantly on it. I’ve even made the statement so many times that if I didn’t run my own business, I’d go back to a flip phone. It’s too easy to get sucked in.
Check out this article from Very Well Family. The article states
“Whether you keep the TV on all the time or the whole family sits around staring at their smartphones, too screen time could be harmful. Here’s what some of the research says:
- Obesity: Too much time engaging in sedentary activity, such as watching TV and playing video games, can be a risk factor for becoming overweight.1
- Sleep problems: Although many parents use TV to wind down before bed, screen time before bed can backfire. The light emitted from screens interferes with the sleep cycle in the brain and can lead to insomnia.2
- Behavior problems: Elementary school-age children who watch TV or use a computer more than two hours per day are more likely to have emotional, social, and attention problems.
- Educational problems: Elementary school-age children who have televisions in their bedrooms do worse on academic testing.
- Violence: Exposure to violent TV shows, movies, music, and video games can cause children to become desensitized to it. Eventually, they may use violence to solve problems and may imitate what they see on TV, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.”
In our house we don’t allow video games/ipads/etc. during the week. Yes, we have our tv on entirely way too much but I’m slowly changing that as well.
As parents we try every day to steer our children in making the right choices, but how many times do we praise them? The other day I felt like I had yelled at my kids entirely way too much. They were at constant odds with each other and I had had enough. Later that night I saw my son do something selfless for his sister and I was reminded he needed to know that I saw him, to acknowledge his good deed, and reminded myself that they need to hear that more often.
When you’re constantly told you’re doing something wrong, you start to believe you can’t do anything right.
In their "business"
I’m what you call a nosy parent 9 or what I like to call an involved parent). I want to know it all no matter how trivial it may seem. What friends are they hanging out with? Have they seen anything at school they want to talk about? Have they seen anything they want to talk about? Having that open communication fosters the relationship so that when something is going on, they know they can come to you.
Bullying, not fitting in, self-doubt are all things children deal with but how many times did you feel like something was going on but didn’t say anything? Fear of your children getting angry with you about being “all up in their business” and wanting to “give them space” are both valid thoughts, but what if asking those hard questions may get you to a root problem you didn’t know existed?
being aware of warning signs
I usually know when something is off with one of my children. Behavioral changes, change in eating habits, and getting in trouble in school can all be warning signs that something else may be going on. Being keenly aware of changes like these can begin the open dialogue between you and your child. They don’t want to talk? I get it, but letting them know you are there, anytime, for anything makes the world of difference. Maybe invite them to play a family board game, or like in our family, one on one time out of the house will bring about lots of conversation. Sometimes just getting out of the house for a quick dinner alone with them is enough for them to breathe.
steps you can take to foster healthy mental health for your child
“Taking care of my own mental health is key. I truly believe in the concept of putting on your own oxygen mask first. My kids see me taking care of myself. Not only does that make me a better parent for them, but it shows them the importance of self care as they get older.” Diffusing the Tension
“It’s okay to show emotions and imperfections, because it shows them it’s okay to have emotions and be imperfect, too. If you make a mistake as an adult, it’s okay to tell your kids about it and show them what self-compassion looks like, so they can practice it on themselves, too.” The Driven Mama for Life
“Building relationship is vital. It’s easy to think you have an inherently strong relationship just living in the same home, but it can be really deceiving. You need to be intentional about fostering a healthy bond, and continue to do so as your kids grow.
Take time to find out their interests and share it with them. One kid love soccer? Show up at as many games as possible. Another child into art? Grab new art supplies and surprise them. Take time to show that what’s important to them is also important to you. By showing an interest in their interests you remind them that they matter, their interests matter and you LIKE spending time with them. Rarely do kids question if we love them, but it’s very easy for them to question if we actually like them. When a child knows their family enjoys their presence, enjoys their interests, etc it helps build their overall confidence which is a vital component of mental health and wellness.” Busy Moms Guide to Faith
“Spending quality time with my child to create a good relationship. It makes children feel like they’re important, that you care about what they want and need and that they can say everything to you.
This Friday I’ll publish a post about how you can spend quality time with your children even if you’re a busy parent.” This Happy Home
“Spending more time in nature as a family is a great way to foster mental health in your home. Taking in the great outdoors with your kids helps you to practice presence, find new perspectives, and enjoy all that nature has to offer. Kids are often over-scheduled. Many times families find them selves rushing from one place to the next. Taking a look at your calendar and letting go of unnecessary items can allow for more free play and outdoor time.
Some ideas for outdoor time include practicing yoga and meditation outside with your kids, going for a bug or scavenger hunt, having a picnic, going for a hike, or just admiring the beauty of mother nature. Spending time in nature, without any really agenda, helps us to slow down and enjoy the journey of life.” Simply Joyful Journey
“Allowing kids to help in the home helps boost their confidence, increases self-esteem, and teaches life skills. Chores, responsibilities, and being held accountable for actions provides a foundation for healthy development, especially in the mental health area.” Kitchen Psychology
“Recently I started a calming nighttime routine for my 3-yo daughter. She takes a bath, then we practice a kids yoga video on you tube together. I feel like it’s really calming for both of us at the end of a long day. Yoga has given me a space to process my emotions and clear my mental space so I hope it will do the same for her. Bonus is we both sleep much better too!” The Working Mom Collective
“When you are around your children use more positive reinforcement and more praise compared to negatives or redirects. For example, 10 instances of praise compared to 1 redirect or negative. Catch them being good and then compliment them on it. Brandy Spengler, mom of 4 with an Education Specialist degree in School Psychology.” Raising the Spengler’s
“In our household, we believe laughter truly is the best medicine. No matter how challenging the day might have been, we take time to play with our 15-month-old son. It’s amazing the amount of stress that falls off your shoulders when you hear the sound of your sweet child’s laughter. By setting that time aside, we’re nurturing his self-esteem by showing him he’s important, and helping him develop coping strategies like learning to laugh through tough times.” Haley with Life with the Lingerfelts