Parenting is a challenge that only continues to evolve and become more complex as your kids get older. As your children mature, they are exposed to more aspects of the world, some of which can cause significant stress. These stressors can eventually contribute to anxiety, depression, and other common mental illnesses, even at a young age. As a parent, you have the responsibility of nurturing your child’s mental health and helping him or her navigate the difficulties of growing up. This is no simple feat, but it can be broken into several simpler, more achievable steps.
Communicate Openly and Often
Open communication with your child is something you should establish from a young age. Simply showing an interest in your child’s life and allowing them to open up in a non-judgmental setting will help your child build essential communication skills. As your child gets older, he or she may feel more comfortable coming to you with problems like bullying, difficulty at school, or issues in personal relationships.
As you talk with your child, you might offer stories about your own life and experiences as well. Knowing that their parents aren’t perfect and went through many of the same struggles they did can help children cope and gain confidence in dealing with their own challenges.
Maintain a Comforting Environment at Home
No family household is perfect, but you can strive for an environment of love and comfort to help ground your child and reduce stress. For example, you might design your child’s chore schedule around school and social obligations, to avoid adding extra stress with loads of chores during busy weeks in his or her life. Additionally, it is helpful to minimize negative input at home, such as arguments between you and your spouse. While these interactions might be unavoidable, they can be kept out of view of your children.
Don’t Ignore Changes in Your Child’s Behavior
Especially as your child enters different developmental stages, it’s easy to write off behavioral changes as normal or non-concerning. And this may be true for changes like an outlandish wardrobe or quirky new hobbies. However, if your child is showing changes in appetite, frequent mood swings, poor academic performance, loss of interest in social activities, loss of sleep, or a drop-off in regular communication, these may be signs of more serious underlying causes.
When addressing changes in your child’s routine and behavior, avoid an accusatory tone and simply ask questions to open up a conversation. It may take time for your child to come around but continuing to offer a listening ear is helpful. Additionally, you might schedule an appointment with your child’s pediatrician to rule out any physical causes of changes like loss of appetite and changes in sleep patterns. The pediatrician may also offer resources for counseling or family therapy. Alternatively, you may choose to talk with your child’s guidance counselor at school for more mental health resources and communication strategies.
Care for Yourself Too
Children learn by example, and if you are constantly showing signs of stress, then your child is likely to feel stress and anxiety too. Thus, it’s important to practice self-care and tend to your own mental wellness needs as you offer the same help to your child. You might even share your stress management strategies with your child by partaking together in a meditation or yoga session, for example.
As a busy parent, mental healthcare may be hard to fit into the schedule. That’s where MeMD can help. With our Teen Therapy services, kids ages 10-17 can get the care they need from the comfort of home.