ASU Prep recognized May 11th as National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day, which highlights the importance of children’s positive mental health as part of their overall development. When children are in good mental health, they will be more successful at home and school, better able to participate and socially engage, learn new things and exhibit good decision-making.
Families can promote good mental health in what they say, how they act, and through the environment they create. Take a look at these suggestions for fostering a supportive environment for children and teens.
It’s important for children to be able to recognize their feelings as the first step in processing them. For younger children, this might mean using a mood chart that allows them to identify a graphic depicting their current emotion. This check-in opens up the conversation for them to better share and get support. For older children, a journal with blank pages or guiding prompts is a positive and personal way to process feelings before discussing them.
Create a Safe Setting
Nurture relationships by spending quality time together talking without judgment. A helpful technique is “High, Low, Buffalo,” in which each family member shares a “high” point from their day, a “low,” and a “buffalo” — a random tidbit. An Internet search for “conversation starters” can also be a fun way to ignite meaningful discussion with older children.
A safe home environment also means setting boundaries on media use. Monitor use by discouraging screens in the bedrooms when possible to allow you to supervise both content and time spent on a screen, as well as any interactions through social media or online games.
Model & Encourage Healthy Behavior
Don’t be afraid to show kids when you struggle or make a mistake. It’s normal, and as they’re watching, they’re learning valuable coping skills.
Be a role model by taking care of your own mental health—discussing feelings and modeling what it looks like to make time for feel-good activities like reading, exercising or relaxing on the porch.
Establish routines for the whole family that prioritize a nutritious diet, regular physical activity and plenty of sleep.
Get Professional Support
Being involved in children’s lives allows us to regularly observe their well-being and track any signs that a child is experiencing changes in their thinking, feelings or behavior, as well as physical changes.
As children navigate developmental and emotional milestones, continue to show them encouragement. Connect with them, reminding them that you care and are there for support.
Need help? Call your child’s pediatrician or seek out additional resources, such as:
ASU Prep’s Family Resources — provides a sampling of social services available to our local community
Mikid — Arizona-based organization focusing on behavioral health and wellness with family-centered approach
Crisis Text Line — offers free help via text message 24/7. Text ‘START’ to 741741 to text with a trained counselor.
988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline — provides 24/7 free, confidential support. Text 988 to connect to a skilled, trained crisis worker.