Mental resilience is a key concern for many adults who struggle to balance work, family and social obligations. Building a strong sense of self-worth and habits that support good mental health starts in childhood, though. Whether you are a parent trying to raise well-adjusted children or a leader in an organization that serves them, it's important to know how to give them their best shot at long-term happiness and well-being.
Foster a Sense of Belonging
Everyone needs a place where they know they are accepted and loved just as they are. Ideally, the main group with whom children find this level of care is their family. There are several other places that can offer a sense of belonging:
- Sports teams
A strong support system allows children to build confidence and learn how to trust others. It also teaches them what real love looks like.
Give Them Opportunities To Fail and Grow
Children who have a clear sense of belonging in at least one social group have a built-in safety net for taking chances. They are free to try challenging new things, even if they aren't successful at first. While failure isn't particularly fun for anyone, it does give children the opportunity to learn from their mistakes and do better the next time.
The temptation for those who love them to step in and help children avoid failure is strong. It makes sense that parents, teachers and church leaders would want to save children the discomfort or pain they have experienced themselves. Fight the urge to do this whenever you can, though, particularly when the consequences are not dire in the grand scheme of things. A little setback in the context of a loving environment can be a valuable instructive tool that is essential to their growth.
Teach Good Overall Health Habits
Physical well-being has a direct effect on mental health, and this connection starts as soon as children are born. Good eating habits help them build a strong immune system, which prevents many of the frustrations that come with frequent illness. Making sure they get adequate sleep every night helps their brains develop well so that they can have the mental agility to tackle the next day.
Embracing movement early in life helps children make it a lifelong habit. Since regular exercise has a direct correlation with better mental health, it's never too early to learn to love it. Find something fun you can do together, such as nature walks or spontaneous dance parties. It's also important to teach children that activity can help them when they are feeling anxious so that they learn healthy ways to complete the stress cycle.
Know Your Resources
There are likely many different places in every child's life where adults are committed to helping him or her thrive. If you are a parent, it's important to know where to go when you need additional guidance or help. Get to know the counselor and support team at your children's schools. Understand the signs of a mental health crisis so that you can get them help before small problems become bigger issues.
Pastors and other church leaders may have contacts within the community who can provide additional mental health support for children and the people who care for them. Perhaps your church has its own peer-led groups or can recommend one that others have found helpful. Leaning on your own support system can help you when a child you love is having trouble coping.
Mental health is just as important for children as it is for adults. Understanding how to provide kids the support they need to learn how to safeguard their mental and emotional well-being is vital to their overall development.