Families play an important role in helping kids identify their feelings, cope with their emotions in a healthy way, prepare for life’s challenges and build resiliency. The more proactive families are about addressing mental health, the more resilient kids will be at navigating difficult situations throughout their lives, able to use healthy coping methods, have better relationships, and maintain their overall health and well-being.
Mental health should be a daily priority, woven into families’ regular routines. Here are five ways families can prioritize mental health to help kids maintain a healthy mind and build resiliency.
Being Aware. Knowing what’s going on in their child’s life and monitoring any big changes they are going through socially, academically, emotionally or physically can help parents and caregivers be more engaged in supporting their mental health and addressing any challenges as they arise.
Talking Openly with Children. It is important that families have regular conversations about how everyone is feeling and what they think about current events, the school day and any family news. Parents and caregivers should share their own feelings and challenges too. It also helps children understand that they are not alone—parents and caregivers sometimes struggle too.
Modeling Good Mental Health Behavior. Children learn from watching their parents. If they see them prioritizing their mental and physical health; maintaining healthy, meaningful relationships; and practicing healthy coping strategies every day, they are more likely to do it too. Parents admitting when they are struggling is incredibly valuable for their children to see as well.
Prioritizing Healthy Lifestyles. Small changes can make a big difference. Families can maintain their mental health and well-being by eating meals together and practicing a healthy diet, exercising regularly, limiting screen time, getting the recommended amount of sleep each night and establishing a consistent bedtime, managing their stress, and finding which relaxation techniques work for their family and practicing them together.
Speaking Up for Children. It’s important that children’s environment outside of home supports their good mental health. Families can speak up for children by going to their PTA, school leadership and school- or community-based organizations to make sure…
Their child’s school is welcoming, safe and connected. Parents and caregivers can ask their child’s teacher or principal what the school is doing to foster social-emotional learning for all children or, if needed, advocate for in-school mental health resources.
Their child’s healthcare team routinely screens for mental health and wellness, listens to their child and to them, and communicates openly and effectively.
Clubs, sports teams and activities outside of school are inclusive of everyone. Parents and caregivers can gather other engaged parents and caregivers and speak up to create a welcoming environment.
Parents, caregivers, teachers, nurses, school counselors, school psychologists and school leaders should all work together to help students maintain a healthy mind; build resiliency; put identified coping strategies into practice; develop individualized plans to manage learning and schoolwork if needed; and refer families to community organizations that provide peer support, service and education.
Families should provide teachers and schools with information about how their children are doing at home and stressors in their children’s lives. Teachers should provide families with information on how their children are doing at school. Both families and schools should also look for signs of worsening or improving symptoms and notify one another of any changes. By partnering together, making mental health a daily priority,and helping children maintain a healthy mind, we can ensure students have the support they need to thrive.
PTA also encourages families to stay informed on what supports are available, and how they can access those services. PTA’s Healthy Minds programs provides information, resources, and helpful tools.
Check out this video for ideas for parents on how and when to start an open dialogue with their kids:
For more tips and tools to help build positive mental health practices and supports, visit PTA.org/HealthyMinds.
–written by Yvonne Johnson, President of National PTA