Mental health is becoming a more widely discussed topic. It’s apparent that maintaining positive mental health can contribute to stronger overall well-being. However, there is a stigma commonly associated with mental health issues that often prevents those from seeking help. Where do we begin? Our children. 14 percent of Australian children between the ages of 4 and 17 have mental health or behavioural problems. Having conversations with our children about how they’re feeling, and what they can do to lead positive lifestyles is essential. Once children become comfortable talking about mental health, these conversations will carry on through adulthood and evolve the way we think about mental health. Here are 5 ways to promote positive mental health in children:

1. Educate

If your child is living with a mental disorder, or showing signs of a negative mental state, the best thing you can do is provide them with as much information as possible. Introduce mental health resources for kids that are informative and easy to understand. Educational materials that are written for children, have the power to transform your child’s attitude. Allowing them to feel like they are not alone can establish a sense of normalcy. Even if your child is not directly impacted by mental illness, sharing these resources the help them understand what their peers are going through and aid in eliminating the stigma.

2. Communicate

Being a confidant or a person a child can trust to share their feelings is essential. Listening without judgement will make them prone to coming to an adult with their stressors or problems. Once the trust is established, you have the ability to teach your child to understand, express and manage their feelings in a productive way. This will shape their transformative teen years, and set your child up for managing stress as an adult.

3. Set Attainable Goals

Help your child establish personal goals that are in line with their ambitions and abilities. This will help your child build their self-confidence and encourage a positive mentality of success. Simultaneously learning about responsibility and accountability will also help your child to cope with shortcomings. It’s okay not to hit every goal that you set, and having your child appropriately acquainted with manageable failure is a great learning opportunity. Learning how to cope with failure and the healthy ways to overcome it is vital.

4. Encourage Exercise
Exercise is a common topic when promoting positive mental health. It is known to make a large difference in mood and impact our overall health. When you exercise, you begin to release chemicals like endorphins and serotonin that naturally improve your mood. Getting involved in fitness classes and playgroups can help reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation in children. Regular exercise can also reduce stress and ease symptoms of mental health conditions like depression and anxiety.

5. Be a Good Role Model

The best way to encourage a healthy routine is to live one yourself. Stick to a daily routine that is balanced in sleep, exercise, and open communication. Not only will your child pick up on it, but they will be more likely to adapt the same way of living. After all, good mental health helps us to form positive relationships and be able to productively manage problems we may encounter. As an adult, why wouldn’t you want to adopt the same practices we’re teaching our kids?

– Gretchen Cohen, Jumo Health. Jumo Health provides a suite of resources for children and families in print and digital formats, using videos, podcasts and games.

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