The moment that you have your first child, your world changes. Suddenly, there is a new center of the universe and a new top priority. You want to give your son or daughter the best life possible, and you want to keep them happy, healthy, and connected to you and the rest of your family.
Raising a healthy child means regular visits to the pediatrician, healthy foods, opportunities for games and exercise, and all of the other things that you’re careful to provide in order to care for your child’s physical health. But, as you may well realize, physical health isn’t everything: We also need to care for the mental health of our children.
Caring for your child’s mind
Just as with physical health, achieving great mental health requires good everyday decisions. In fact, your child’s mental health relies on many of the same things that his or her physical health does. A great diet, plenty of exercise, and regular sleep patterns are all good for a person’s mental health, just as they are for a person’s physical health.
The support of a loving family matters enormously, too. Bring your family together for meals and other moments — and be a good example of work-life balance by taking family vacations. Heading down to Florida may not seem like a mental health treatment, but experts say that it actually is. There’s a ton of evidence to support that a relaxing day on the beach and a West Palm Beach sunset cruise can actually calm us down, lower our stress levels, make us happier (and even physically healthier), and return us to our daily lives feeling recharged and being measurably more productive at school or work.
Another key to great mental health is communication, and that’s particularly important to parents and children. Your child isn’t going to go set up his or her own mental health care appointment and drive him or herself there. You need to know what is going on in his or her head. Encourage healthy communication and know how to get your child to open up, so that you have a better chance of identifying mental health issues early instead of finding out later that your child hid them from you.
What to do when things go wrong
Mental health and physical health have a lot in common, but we don’t always recognize that. We can keep our child eating healthy foods and exercising, yet we won’t be surprised if our child comes down with a physical ailment. Can we appreciate the same truth about mental health?
The fact of the matter is that, while there is much that you can and should do to care for your child’s mental health, you can’t control everything. Mental health issues are very common, even among children, and especially among teens. If your child shows symptoms of depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and other common problems, don’t take it personally or blame yourself, but do take it seriously.
In situations like these, experts say, you should seek professional help. Seek out mental health care providers like psychiatrists, psychologists, and therapists. Consider inpatient rehab, too, such as Polaris adolescent residential treatment centers for mental health issues. Sometimes, getting your child away from difficult situations and familiar settings can help enormously.
Just like physical health, mental health requires regular care. Also like physical health, it sometimes requires us to go to the doctor. When you make mental health a priority in your family, you’ll help your children live the life you want for them.