What does Emotional Wellbeing mean for Children?
Mental health for children can be described as how they think and feel about themselves and their environment. It correlates directly to their capacity to manage challenging situations, relationships, and emotions. Think of mental health as a stack of cards, perfectly balanced in a pyramid. In this analogy, the foundation of the stack represents mental health. As more and more weight piles on top, if the foundation is not solid – the whole structure collapses.
When Should You Worry About Your Child’s Mental Health?
Several signs indicate that your young one may be emotionally distressed and unequipped to handle it.
Appearing to be overpowered by anger, sadness, embarrassment, etc. - often manifested through tantrums.
Seeming overly withdrawn or pushing you away out of the blue.
Losing interest in the things they consistently cared about.
Not wanting to try new things.
Harmful to themselves or others.
Here is a checklist to accelerate a child’s mental wellness!
Mental Wellness Checklist
Do they have a good relationship with you?
As a parent, educator, or counsellor - children's interactions with you speak volumes about their mental wellness. Human connection is vital for good mental health and will shape how they interact with others. Convey love through your body language and words, spend time with them, and positively reinforce good behaviour. At the same time - set boundaries so that they understand that their actions are consequential.=
Do they have a good relationship with themselves?
A crucial skill for children to carry into adulthood is emotional regulation. Instead of giving in to unhealthy internalizing or externalizing behaviours, help the child identify their feelings. Validate them and guide them towards a solution. Whether they are experiencing fear, anxiety, sadness, anger, happiness, or curiosity - help them understand that it is normal and explain what they can do about it. For toddlers, lead by example and do the same for your feelings. Doing so will reassure them that they can navigate sticky, unavoidable situations and subdues impulses.
Do they have a good relationship with others?
A child’s sociability stems from witnessing adults socializing around them. Lead by example and encourage them to be active in their community. Teach them to share, stand up for themselves, resolve conflicts, and participate in group activities.
Are they physically healthy?
The mind and body are interconnected. Physical activity releases “feel good” neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin. These promote a healthy mind and can be achieved through simple sports, swimming, or even playing in the park. Eating a wholesome diet with balanced proportions of carbs, protein, fats, vitamins, and minerals is vital to form these neurotransmitters in the brain. Sleep also gives the brain and body sufficient rest for problem-solving and learning new skills. You'll know what we mean if you’ve had a sleepy or hungry child!
Sometimes, we may find ourselves out of our depth when handling children. In this case, feel free to consult with a child behaviour specialist and a general practitioner. Also - stay up to date on the various intervention options for your kids/students and get creative with them! Some examples are the bilingual children’s books from Journey Matters, opening up conversations around emotions. ‘A-Z of You and Me’ and ‘Not just happy sad and angry’ are two books you can read with children to convey emotional responsibility. And remember - you’re doing a great job with the kids if you’re doing your best!