Mental health is an essential part of an individual’s overall health. It has a complex interactive relationship with our physical health and ability to live healthy at home and succeed in school, our workplace and in the society. In general, it is the physical and mental health that affects how an individual thinks, feels or acts on both internally and externally.
Children’s Mental Health Matters
Just like adults, kids need sound mental health to think clearly, learn new skills and for their general social development. But unlike adults, children do not possess the skills and psychological strength to handle their affairs properly.
Thus such duty lies on their parents. On the other hand, it is easier for parents to identify their child’s physical needs, nutritional needs, and warm clothes when it’s cold, or bedtime at a reasonable hour. But the basics for good mental health of children aren’t always clear.
Thus, the first “basic” is to know that, the children’s mental health matters a lot. As parents can help prevent a child from catching a cold or breaking a bone, parents also have to prevent a child from having mental health problems. Therefore, parents need to treat a child’s mental health just like their physical health, by giving it thought, attention and professional help when needed.
Know the signs
Though these signs may not be evident as that of physical illness, proper observation will reveal these signs. If there is a concern that a child may be experiencing a mental health problem, it is essential for adults to seek help from a doctor or mental health professionals. Parents should consider consulting a professional if a child behaves in the following manner;
- Avoids people and wants to be alone all of the time.
- Feels very sad, hopeless or irritable.
- Feels excessively angry.
- Is scared and fearful; has frequent nightmares.
- Hurts other people or animals; or damages property.
- Loses interest in friends or things usually enjoyed.
- Uses alcohol or drugs.
- Hears voices or sees things that aren’t there.
- Can’t concentrate, sit still, or focus attention.
- Talks about suicide or death.
- Develops a significant change in eating or sleeping habits.
- Falls behind in school or earns lower grades, or displays other similar or suspicious behaviours.
What Parents Should Do
Most importantly, parents must provide the basis for a child’s good physical health which includes but not limited to; Nutritious food, adequate shelter and sleep, Exercise, Immunizations and Healthy living environment. And in furtherance of these, parents must do the following;
- Show unconditional love to your children.
- Care for your children’s mental health just as you would do for their physical health.
- Pay attention to warning signs, and if you’re concerned, there might be a problem seek professional help.
- Your children should be made to know that everyone experiences pain, worry f, sadness, fear, and anger and that these emotions make up the regular part of life.
- Always encourage them to talk about their concerns and to express their emotions.
- Be a role model to your kids and talk about your feelings, apologise when you need to, don’t express anger with violence, always try to use active problem-solving skills.
- Pay attention to your children’s talents and skills and encourage them, while also accepting their limitations. Celebrate your children’s accomplishments.
- Give your children the opportunity to learn and grow, and make sure to be involved in their school and community and with other caring adults and friends.
- “Discipline” should be made known to them as a form of teaching, rather than as physical punishment; set clear expectations and be consistent and fair with consequences for misbehaviour; making sure to acknowledge both the positive and negative behaviours.
In conclusion, to take care of a child’s mental health means to help a child feel secure, relate well to others and foster their growth at home and school. If this is done, it helps to build a child’s competence and confidence which is the first foundation of healthy self-esteem. This can only be achieved when a child is provided with a safe and secure home, warmth and love, respect, care, trust and having a good relationship with family, friends and community. Also giving children opportunities to talk about their experiences and feelings, to play, learn, and to succeed.
Taking care of our mental health is just as important as having a healthy body, and as a parent, you play an essential role in your children’s mental health. Considering children’s vulnerability, taking care of their mental health problems early may help to prevent more severe illness from developing in the future.