By Sarah Hollon

Being able to identify a child’s basic and physical needs such as nutritious food, shelter, warm clothing, and a reasonable bed time is obvious and easy to recognize. However a child’s mental and emotional needs are more difficult to identify and notice.

The environment you provide for your child each day holds many opportunities and chances for nourishing good mental health. Having good mental health helps and allows your child to learn and develop appropriate skills to influence, enhance, and improve communication and expression, social skills and interactions, emotional regulation, and confidence in themselves. Your child’s mental health is vital and plays a major role in their overall wellbeing. Here are some tips and strategies you can implement and apply in your daily lives to help support, encourage, and influence your child’s emotional, psychological, and social wellbeing.

1. Active Listening and Communication View your child’s behaviors as a window to their needs and feelings. Your child is communicating something. What is it? Be patient and engage in active listening before offering your advice. Take time to sit down and ask open ended questions, to gather information, promote discussions, and give yourself as a parent opportunities for validations. As parents you are trying to encourage communication, not to discourage it. Be mindful of how you respond verbally and emotionally.

2. Model Healthy Behaviors Children are influential and developmentally are constantly growing and learning. They are like little sponges soaking up everything around them. Children see how you handle stress, how you manage and deal with your feelings, how you problem solve, and how you communicate with others. It’s hard to model appropriate behaviors all the time but striving to model the behavioral and emotional responses you want your children to engage in.

3. Establishing Boundaries and Structure Consistency and structure are beneficial both for children and parents. Clear structure, rules, and expectations provide limits and boundaries. Children need boundaries without them they lose their way. They need clear rules and consistent consequences. But they need them to be delivered with love, understanding and kindness. Talking about the reasons for both rules and consequences helps children understand why they need to follow rules.

4. Building Relationships & Connections Making a connection and a bond with your child should be the upmost highest priority. Paying attention to your child’s point of view, thoughts, feelings, and concerns helps develop a bond and a healthy connection. Prioritizing time with your child is essential to developing the relationship. Scheduling or setting specific time aside for your child and family can only be beneficial for everyone.

5. Providing Praise Providing praise to children helps build and develop confidence and a sense of selfworth. By providing praise you’re showing your child you acknowledge them, your encouraging them, and helping them develop awareness to when they do well. Praise also influences feelings of being proud.

“We see how early childhood experiences are so important to lifelong outcomes, how the early environment literally becomes embedded in the brain and changes its architecture.” ~ Andrew S. Garner