There’s no guidebook or set directions to raising kids, and it is certainly no easy feat. Parents always do the best they can teaching kids about the rules of society, such as sharing toys and completing chores to build responsibility, but being human doesn’t end there. As parents teach their kids about the importance of being active and eating healthy, it’s also important to realize that we consume a lot more than just food. We consume information and everything around us, and with technology and social media, kids are being fed a lot these days. Now more than ever it’s important to teach kids about the importance of mental health and how to handle the emotions that come with being human.
Be Mindful of Your Own Habits and Teach By Example
You may notice your child likes to copy everything you or your spouse/partner do, from how you dress to the things you say. Our children observe everything we do, so it’s important to try our best to model the behaviors we want them to adopt. Excessive screen time has harmful effects on kids and teenagers regarding their behavior, mood, sleep, and overall health. There’s no better way to teach kids to reconnect with the world immediately around them then to shut off your own phone. Take family hikes where a phone is only taken for case of emergency and limit screen time indoors by practicing no phones at the dinner table. By emphasizing family time over screen time, you’re teaching your children to value time together and helping them limit the amount of time they consume social media.
Teach Them Mindfulness Techniques
It’s never too early, or too late, to introduce yoga and mindfulness to yourself or your children. Mindfulness means focusing on the present moment without judgement. Meditation is the act of setting time aside to practice mindfulness, or simply being in the present moment. Yoga and mindfulness have proven to offer psychological benefits for children, improve classroom behavior, memory retention, academic performance, and self-esteem. Find a children’s yoga program near you or simply take the time to sit down and practice mindfulness with your child.
Journaling provides ample benefits from managing anxiety, reducing stress, and coping with depression. It’s a way for everyone to express feelings and emotions that are bottled up inside. By writing about your problems, or simply your day-to-day activities, it helps bring clarity to your thoughts and allows for an opportunity to problem solve as well as provide a safe space for your child to implement positive self-talk. Taking the time to write down feelings also gives your child the time to focus on how they feel and find the words to why they feel that way, providing the confidence boost they need to talk to you or a teacher about what’s going on.
Don’t Stunt Their Growth and Let Them Become Independent Problem Solvers
It’s important to let your children grow and complete age-appropriate tasks. It’s important not to delay letting your kids help out with chores around the house. They are more capable than we let them be, even at a young age. By 2-3 years old, your child can put their toys back in a box, throw trash away, and place dirty clothes in the laundry basket. By 4-5 they can help feed pets and clean up spills. At age 10 they can mow the lawn and vacuum, and by 12 they can cook a complete dinner. Allowing your children to take responsibility sets the groundwork for them becoming independent and confident adults. It’s also important to let them learn by doing. Let them make mistakes. Don’t expect perfection right away and give praise when they do a good job.
Choose Your Language Carefully
It’s also important to teach your kids the power of words. When you see a child beginning to make a face, don’t speak for them and assume why they are reacting a certain way. Explain you see their face looks upset and prompt them to explain what’s going on. Remember, your kids want to be just like you and observe everything you do. It’s important not to get angry over spilled milk. If your child makes a mistake, have a calm conversation with them about it and explain how they can fix it, instead of reacting with anger.
It’s important to remember children are humans too. We all have emotions we’re sorting through and developing healthy mental health habits is just as important as taking care of our physical health. If your child expresses a need for mental help, it’s important to take them seriously and contact a professional.