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Habits to inculcate for good mental health in kids

Post by on Tuesday, October 19, 2021

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All children think and feel about themselves in some way or the other. They have a sense of self-image. They also have a fair idea about the world around themselves and how they feel about it. In today’s world, the children know what they want and what they do not want, most of the time. All this is a part of mental health.
Good mental health is a part of a child's overall growth and development. The mental health of a child determines how they cope with various struggles of a growing childhood life like sharing, meeting new people, changing environment, breaking of a favorite toy, not getting what you want, missing parents when they are at work etc.
Good or positive mental health helps children build positive social, emotional, behaviour, thinking and communication skills. This lays the foundation for better mental health and wellbeing later in life.
A child with good mental health is:
•        Happy and content with self and his/her surroundings, most of the time.
•        Likes the way he/she looks.
•        Plays with others.
•        Has friends.
•        Is able to learn new things with some effort.
•        If the child becomes sad, he/she may get upset and angry, but is able to calm down by self or with help of adults and/or friends.
•        Gels with family and friends well.
•        Likes school.
•        Does small chores.
•        Knows or is learning to share.
•        Is compassionate (as per the age of the child) of other’s needs and eager to help.
How can we promote good mental health in our child?
•        Provide a loving and supportive environment at home.
•        Give attention and time to your child: tell them you love them, at least twice a day, talk to them when they want to, play with them, hug them, etc.
•        Teach them responsibility: give them small chores around the house to make them responsible (as per the age) e.g., set the table, clean up after playing, make your own bed, read a book, etc.
•        Praise even the little things that they do well e.g., for finishing their vegetables, for sharing a toy, etc.
•        Teach compassion: ask them to help others. 1. If his/her friend gets hurt, tell them to ask the friend whether he/she is ok and whether they can apply band aid or ice. 2. They can help their grandparents by holding their hand to support them while they walk, etc.
•        Use positive reinforcement: praising a positive or healthy behaviour instead of punishment or shouting for an unwanted behaviour.
•        Emotion naming: teach them to identify various emotions; sad, happy, angry, content, disappointed, excited, energized, etc. Then ask them to name them when they feel it. Encourage them to use words.
•        Conflict management between spouses and other family members must be done constructively in front of the child. Avoid fighting when the child is around.
•        Have lots of free play. This encourages creativity.
•        Have play dates: this will teach them team work, sharing, learning to accept each other’s opinions, planning and organizing.
•        Teach any sport activity that your child likes.
•        Support your child when something is bothering him/her. For example, if your child is having trouble with friends at school, you could give your child plenty of hugs and reassure them that you’re there for them. And you could work with the teacher on a plan to handle the situation.
•        Set a daily routine of activities like school time, play time, home work time, meal time.
•        Control exposure to gadgets.
•        Encourage your child to try new things and motivate them to continue it. For example, learning guitar, soccer etc.
•        Involve your child in brainstorming solutions to his/ her problems (as per the child age). This gives them confidence, makes them responsible and they feel involved and feel that their opinion matters too.
•        Good physical health is also equally important. Eat healthy nutritious food, include exercise in daily routine like yoga etc., maintain hydration and sleep well.
A strong foundation in childhood can lead to a healthy, happy and productive life. Good mental health contributes to strong relationships and better health at home, school and better ability to cope with ups and downs of life.
If you feel that your child is not able to cope well and is having difficulty with school, studies, with friends, temper tantrum, etc., take professional help from a psychiatrist.
Stronger the roots, the stronger the tree grows!
Positive Mental Health
Positive mental health, according to the World Health Organisation, is defined as a state of well-being where individuals are able to:
•       Realise their own potential.
•        Work productively.
•       Cope with the normal stresses of life, and,
•       Make a positive contribution to the community.
A lot of positive mental health depends on mental resilience. Resilience is the brain's protective armour.
The ability to bounce back from tragedy and difficult situations, the various ups and downs in life, is called Resilience. It is a very important brain function. This armour protects us from various day to day stressors. It is how fast we heal from mental injury/ stress. It promotes faster recovery and better outcomes.
Resilience varies from person to person. Each individual copes differently. Some cope better with stress, some cope better in a relaxed environment. Also, different people have different tolerance to various situations and circumstances.
Just like we can improve physical resilience by exercises, we can also improve our mental resilience by learning positive coping strategies.
 Positive coping strategies
We as humans like to be in control of our life and things around us. So, to develop a sense of control, we need to set a routine. Follow a schedule for day-to-day activities.
Make S.M.A.R.T goals
•       Specific (simple, sensible, significant)- Define it exactly.
•       Measurable (meaningful, motivating).
•       Achievable (agreed, attainable)- It may push you to your limits, but it should be doable and plausible. It must be realistic, including finances.
•       Relevant (reasonable, realistic, resourced and results-based).
•       Time bound (time-based, time limited, cost limited, timely, time-sensitive).
Physically: By eating a healthy diet and by exercise. Exercise releases the feel-good hormone endorphin.
Mentally: Talk positively about yourself without any judgement, forgive yourself and see if you can solve the issues and correct your mistakes. If not, tell yourself you tried your best and it’s OK if it does not work or it’s okay to make mistakes.
•       Being mindful: Be mindful of the surroundings to come back to the present and away from your distracting thoughts. You can be mindful of any 3 things around you- the three things that you can see, 3 things you can hear, 3 things you can touch and 3 things you can feel. This will bring you back to the present and current scenario and help you focus more on the present and avoid overthinking.
•       Meditation: Practice meditation for at least 10 minutes every day. This will help to clear your mind.
•       Being grateful: Be grateful for all the things that you have. Every day you can think of 5 things that you were grateful for. This helps in more clarity of thought and better coping.
•       Help others: When we help others, we feel a sense of being useful and helpful. It gives us a sense of accomplishment.
•       Keep busy: It is said that “empty mind is the devil’s workshop”. Keep yourself busy by doing activities that you like, learning new hobbies, skills, watching movies, organising closets, or involving yourself with some social work, etc.
Combat loneliness
Loneliness is a sense of lack of emotional connection and companionship. It comes from within. Reconnect with friends and family, if you are away, over video calling which is much better than texting or emailing.
Combat anxiety
•       Control information flow to topics which are relevant to you.
•       Accept uncertainty: Make a list of uncertain things that you accept without realizing in everyday life. For example, ‘will I get a bus or will I get a cab to work on time?’ So, once we realise that we have been living with these uncertainties, our brain acknowledges that everything is not 100% certain and still we are doing okay without certainty.
•       Worry period: Set aside a time and place in the day for 30 minutes to worry.
Good night’s sleep
Take a refreshing, 6 to 8 hours of sleep every day.
Applying positive coping strategies in day-to-day life helps improve resilience and improves our quality of life and promotes positive mental health.
“It is not primarily our physical selves that limit us but rather our mindset about our physical limits.” –Ellen J. Langer

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