As a parent, you are no stranger to keeping your kids physically healthy and safe, but helping them stay in a good frame of mind is essential for their mental health.
What does ‘a good frame of mind’ mean, though?
Typically, having a good frame of mind means that a person has a positive mental attitude or outlook. It doesn’t mean they are happy all the time, or that they don’t feel other emotions. That is important to note since your children are simply not going to be happy all the time!
Kids feel all human emotions, even the less pleasant ones, like sadness and anger. Understanding this is the first step to being able to help your little ones keep a good frame of mind.
These things will help you teach your children how important it is to maintain a positive outlook, even when they are experiencing difficult times.
Help your kids stay in a good frame of mind by talking about stress
Teaching your kids how to cope with stress is an essential part of helping them manage their own mental health. Sure, your child’s stress will look nothing like the daily stress you are under, but their stress is real and relative to them.
Coping with stress is a life skill they will need, and helping them learn healthy coping mechanisms now will help them avoid mental and physical health problems as they get older.
They will eventually experience the stress you deal with, and how you teach them to handle it will matter! So, remember to take care of your own mental health too!
Like much of parenting, it starts with modeling behaviors for them. How do you handle stress? Are you taking time for self-care, exercise, and even breathing techniques?
If your child sees you doing these things, they will grow up knowing that it is normal, and not have to rewire their brains to take a day off when they need it.
Encourage your child to take a nap, or if they have outgrown that, then have them take some quiet time after they have played hard or come home from school. Quiet time for kids is a lot like meditation for adults!
“Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.” — Thich Nhat Hanh
Help your kids have a good frame of mind by setting limits
Things like TV and video games are much more a part of children’s lives than they have been in past generations. That is not necessarily a bad thing either. Video games can actually help your kids learn things like teamwork, problem-solving, and even increase their reading skills.
Sometimes, parents are so focused on the dangers that we forget they can actually be beneficial! However, those dangers are also real, and it really comes down to limits. If your child is having mood swings while playing, becoming hyper-focused, or having trouble getting off the game, then they are probably playing more than they should.
In fact, most experts recommend children spend less than 2 hours a day playing video games. They also recommend that there be “no video game” days.
If you are interested in seeing how much time you should allow your child to play on their electronic devices, check out this media plan calendar from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
“You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” — Buddha
Encourage creative play or activities to help your child’s mental health
There have been many studies about how critical play is to children. In fact, they have higher odds of being happy and a reduced risk of depression and anxiety when they play. Kids also learn through play.
Young children rarely need much encouragement to play. They will play with anything—empty boxes, pots and pans, and whatever else they can get into! As long as it is safe, let them explore and use imaginative play.
As they get older, and that seems a little boring, make sure they are still playing. Sure, maybe your kid is too big for the play structure at the mall—but what about the trampoline park? There are options for play all around that are physical, creative, or thought-provoking all around us.
Even adults need time to play and relax. Board games can be a great way to bring play to the whole family. My family also enjoys going to escape rooms together! It is an hour of imaginative play that is fun for everyone! Having fun is an important part of helping your child maintain a good frame of mind.
“Play keeps us vital and alive. It gives us an enthusiasm for life that is irreplaceable. Without it, life just doesn’t taste good.” — Lucia Capocchione
Seeking professional help when your child is struggling is ok
A recent study estimated that 21% of children with a mental health issue get treatment. That means that there are many children with mental health problems that aren’t getting the help they need.
There are so many reasons this could be the case. I experienced a wide range of emotions when my oldest wanted to go to counseling two years ago to get help with her anxiety. One on hand, I was so proud of her for recognizing she was struggling. She was being proactive and taking charge of her mental health at 16.
On the other, I was sad that she felt her anxiety was so bad she needed to see a professional. I thought it was just normal teenage angst. I was in denial about how bad it was and guilt-ridden for not seeing it sooner. There was also a part of me that felt I had failed her as a parent because she wasn’t happy.
This led to both of us going to therapy and learning a lot! Remember when I said it is important to model behaviors for your kids? I knew I have struggled with anxiety and perfectionism my whole life but thought I had it handled.
I never put that pressure to be perfect on my daughter directly. However, when she was three, I threw away a gingerbread house I had been working on because it didn’t look like the picture on the box… I was sending a crystal obvious message.
Not only is it ok to get your child professional help, but it might be the best thing you ever do for them. The same holds true for you. If you are struggling with anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues, don’t be afraid to reach out! It might be the single most important thing you can do to help your child learn how to maintain a healthy frame of mind.
“Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary.” — Fred Rogers
Be proactive about teaching your kids about a positive frame of mind
Take the time to teach them the importance of things like gratitude. Gratitude can have a profound impact on the way we view the world and the things that happen to us.
If you notice signs that your child is struggling with aspects of their mental health, then get them some help. Red flags might be if your child feels anxious or sad about normal activities all the time. Again, they are going to feel these emotions from time to time like everyone else, but it is a common occurrence it is worth looking into.
Does your child struggle to sit still? Are they having trouble concentrating on the task at hand? These are things you should mention to your child’s doctor.
Our goal as parents is to keep our kids healthy and help them grow into the best versions of themselves. The gift of teaching them about mental health and a positive frame of mind will be one of the most profound things you can do.
What other ways do you help your child maintain a positive frame of mind? You can let us know in the comment section below.