It’s never too early to teach your child about mental health

In a recent Royal Children’s Hospital study, parents reported anxiety to be the second biggest health issue among their children. Talking mental health with your child allows them to develop the tools to stay mentally well early in life. This can lead to increased learning, positive social and emotional wellbeing, and a stronger ability to cope with school, friendships and work.

What is mental health?

According to Beyond Blue, “Mental health is about being cognitively, emotionally and socially healthy – the way we think, feel and develop relationships –­ and not merely the absence of a mental health condition”.

Here are 5 simple steps you can take to teach your child about mental health:

1. Talk about mental health at home

Educate your child on the importance of mental health at home. This allows your child to understand it is a priority, and encourages the development of skills to manage life’s ups and downs as they grow. Help your child understand the difference between mental health and mental illness so they can develop awareness of their own emotions.

2. Practise mental wellness as a family

There are a range of factors that contribute to positive mental health outcomes. Highlight the importance of these to your child and lead by example. Factors include:

  • Daily exercise and time outdoors
  • Eating well
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Pursuing hobbies
  • Connecting with friends and family

3. Stay connected with your child

While talking to your child is obviously criticial, it’s important to also be a good listener. Provide your child with the space to open up and be heard without judgement. Avoid trying to offer solutions but rather show understanding and empathy. Children, particularly adolescents, may find it hard talking to their parents. To help open up the lines of communication, find an activity to enjoy regularly together and show genuine interest in their hobbies.

4. Identify changes in behaviour

According to Headspace, “Feeling down, tense, angry, anxious or moody are all normal emotions for young people, but when these feelings persist for long periods of time (and if they begin to interfere with daily life) they may be cause for concern.”

Signs to look out for include:

  • Withdrawing from friends and family
  • Not doing things they previously enjoyed
  • Changes in appetite and sleep patterns
  • Risky behaviour
  • Uncharacteristically stressed or worried
  • Feelings of distress, helplessness, anger or negative thoughts

5. Discuss support options

Checking in with your child and reminding them you are always there to listen is the first place to start. It’s also helpful to suggest talking to a school counsellor, GP or support service such as Lifeline Australia, Beyond Blue, Headspace or Black Dog Institute.

Kingsway Christian College incorporates a number of different programmes to grow our students into mentally healthy, self-regulating adults. These include U-R-Strong, PATHS and the YourChoisez programme, as well as the No Scaredy Cats parenting programme, which focuses on ways to reduce a child’s anxiety and build resilience.

If you would like to learn more about Kingsway, download our prospectus here.

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