In the last article, we discussed in detail about how schools can use a model of promoting mental health put forward by WHO. But, it equally critical for parents and families to create a conducive environment which enables good physical, emotional and social health.

How can families promote mental health?

Before we give some suggestions on what parents and families can do to promote mental well being at home, it is crucial to remember this:

Your own physical and mental health is an important part of raising a child. Looking after yourself and seeking help when required will help you with the understanding, patience, imagination and energy you need to raise your child. An emotionally stable and secure environment and good nutrition lays the foundation for physical and mental wellness of a family.

Certain suggestions that are effective are:

  • showing your affection, interest and care for your children’s well-being
  • encouraging your children to talk about their feelings and to work out problems even when it is difficult
  • comfort them and lend a non judgmental listening ears when they are distressed or anxious
  • spend quality time with your children, working on projects and taking part in activities such as board games together
  • being aware of your children’s needs and differences at different stages of development
  • providing consistent care and avoiding erratic or harsh discipline
  • spending time individually with each of your children
  • trying not to involve your children in your arguments and seeking help early if you are not able to resolve conflicts between family members.
  • not comparing them their friends or school mates
  • Score is just a number - do not pressurize them too much for academic results. Sit with them when they need help in schoolwork , but don't expect each child to have IQ of Einstein.
  • encourage their strengths and accept their weakness. each child is different, enjoy their individuality
  • strive to raise good human beings rather than pushing your unmet goals on them
  • Acceptance and belonging are very important. Encourage your children to talk to someone they trust and be ready to listen yourself, but do not force them to talk. Praise and notice their achievements, especially small ones, and avoid criticising and pointing out shortcomings.
  • Try to work out when your children need space and when they would benefit from company, and do things with them that they enjoy.
  • working parents should avoid guilt trips and buying unnecessary gifts, if you plan your week well, you can squeeze in good quality time with family
  • focus on spirituality, meditation, yoga, exercise, good nutrition at home

When to get external help?

Sometimes, even with the best of efforts by parents and schools, children seem to show signs of distress and depression. If as a parent or educator, you can read these signs in a child, it is best to take external help. As a first step, you may prefer to talk to someone you trust such as your general practitioner, someone in your local community health center, your child’s teacher, school counselor, or your religious adviser. Effective help for children and teenagers generally involves short-term counselling or therapies. These are usually based in the local community with as little disruption to school and family life as possible.

Signs to look out for?

  • Inability to get along with other children
  • Marked fall in school work
  • Marked weight gain or loss
  • Changes in usual sleeping or eating patterns
  • Fearfulness
  • Lack of energy or motivation
  • Irritability
  • Restlessness, fidgeting and trouble concentrating
  • Excessive disobedience or aggression
  • Crying a lot
  • Spending less time with or avoiding their friends
  • Feeling hopeless or worthless
  • Reluctance to go to school or take part in normal activities
  • Overuse of alcohol and other drugs
  • If children or young people have persistent thoughts about hurting themselves or wanting to die, they need urgent professional help.

What can children do to take care of their own emotional wellness?

  • Self regulation coping strategies : These have been written in detail in a previous blog
  • Understand that parents are human and can make mistakes
  • No problems are insurmountable, trust an adult (parent or teacher ) to help navigate through challenging times
  • Communicate with your parents and ask them to share stories of when they faced challenges and resolved them

Watch this animation clip on children speaking about mental health..