May is Mental Health Awareness Month
May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Being aware of your children’s mental health, even before you notice an actual change in behavior, can help them maintain a healthy mindset, and prepare them to cope when they do experience difficult times. At times, both children and adults may find it difficult to manage big and sometimes even small changes in their lives and everyone has had to deal with a lot of change over the past few years. BCHP’s behavioral health consultant, Kristin Montini, shares tips to promote and strengthen your family’s mental health.
Keep open, honest communication.
- Frequently remind your child that you are there to listen, love, and support - free of judgment. You can never tell this to a child too often, and it increases the likelihood your child will come to you when there is a problem.
Talk about emotions regularly and validate feelings.
- Use supportive language such as “I hear what you’re saying”, “I can see that”, “Can you tell me more about that”, and “I’d like to understand more.” Validation does not mean we need to agree with our children, but it allows them to learn how to express themselves appropriately.
Teach your kids to use belly breathing as a coping strategy.
- Belly breathing is a helpful tool to manage frustration and anxiety, and it can be taught at a very young age. Try placing a stuffed animal on their tummy and encourage them to breathe in and out and watch the animal go on a roller coaster ride.
- Older kids can learn to meditate when they are feeling anxious or overwhelmed.
Provide positive feedback and encouragement any chance you get.
- Find opportunities to tell your kids when you like what they’re doing, from picking up toys to completing their homework.
- Use “I like when…” when trying to correct a behavior. For example, if you want your child to sit nicely at the dinner table, state “I like it when you sit facing forward.”
Build self-esteem by helping others.
- Find small tasks around the home that your little ones can do. For example, filling the pet bowls, setting the table, or decorating the home with artwork. By helping others, kids build self-esteem, learn responsibility, and feel valued by others.
- Be sure to praise your teens when you notice they have done something nice for a friend or family member.
Adversity is a part of life. Allowing kids to experience challenges and identify healthy coping strategies is a lesson that takes time, patience, and resilience. But it will be a lesson that will help them through every stage of their life.
Many BCHP offices have an on-site behavioral health consultant that can help you and your child approach the topic of mental health and curate strategies that fits your child’s needs. Talk to your child’s primary care provider to see if a behavioral health consultant would be beneficial.