When we think about self-care, of course, we often think of ourselves. However, it’s important to start practicing self-care with your children as well. Especially because, at Emerge, we work with children who deal with a variety of diagnoses, and these kids may be struggling with their perception of self. Mental health includes our emotional, psychological and social well-being and affect one’s thinking, mood, and behavior. Mental health issues can be caused by genetic conditions or conditions of the brain, traumatic life experiences or family history of mental illness. Recently, we celebrated World Mental Health Day but we need to continue the conversation on how to practice self-care with your children everyday because 1 in 5 Americans experience mental illness every year.
Have open communication: The best thing you can do to ensure your child is in a healthy mindset is to have constant, open communication with them. Create an environment where your child feels comfortable and even empowered to express their feelings. If you don’t know where to start, provide your child with age appropriate mental health resources for them to review in their own time. Then, you can begin to foster communication with them and review the resources together. This will help them better understand their feelings in an accurate and relatable way, while being more open with you. Becoming more self-aware will allow them to have more productive communication about how they are feeling.
Embrace expression: We know that there are plenty of games and art activities that improve fine motor skills and sensory processing; head to our blog to see how we love to play to help improve these physical conditions. When it comes to self-care, these games and activities are helpful as well, they can help improve social anxiety and focus. However, art therapy allows your child to have full expression and release of all emotions, positive and negative and is an exceptional way to improve mental health! Art, music and writing are calming activities that sometimes are a better form of a communication for a child. When they have turned their emotions into something tangible, you both can see and understand the feeling better. Plus, creating art without guidance allows a child to have complete control over something in their life, which is a freeing feeling even at a young age.
Establish healthy habits: A well-balanced diet, exercise and play, and a good night’s sleep aren’t just great for a child’s physical health, it’s essential to their mental health too! Establishing these healthy habits at a young age will help keep their mind in good shape. Allow your child to participate in physical activities that they enjoy, whether it be a sport, being outside in nature, or a fun game. It’s great to try to incorporate physical activity a few times per week because you never know when your child may need an outlet and aren’t communicating that to you, and exercise helps prevent the development of mental health problems. Ensure your child is getting an adequate amount of well-balanced foods at each meal. Meals that are comprised of fruits, vegetables, protein, grains and unsaturated fats help fuel your body and mind. This paired with the exercise and enough sleep will be extremely helpful with a child’s mental health, and will help them learn how to better care for themselves as the grow. Lack of sleep, skipping meals and eating/drinking sugary items will create an imbalance in the body which can cause anxiety and fatigue.
Having open communication, healthy habits and practicing artistic expression are three effective ways to ensure your child’s mental health is on the right track. A person is never too young to learn self-care practices. It’s even more important when children are dealing with other diagnoses as well. Don’t be afraid to ask someone here at Emerge for additional guidance if you are concerned about their mental health. Practicing self-care with your child will help them communicate more effectively and learn how to better forge meaningful relationships.