Tips for Parents for Children’s Mental Health Week
It’s Children’s Mental Health Week and although we are travel experts, we are also parents and advocates for the well-being of children. Our mission as a company, and as parents, has been to encourage meaningful, world-wide travel with young kids because we know it can be beneficial to their brain development and overall health.
Life has always provided parents with hurdles, but the unexpected twists and turns of the past year have left us navigating through unchartered territory. Although parents often say they just want their kids to be happy, they should probably be saying that they want their kids to know how to handle being unhappy. Because if there’s one thing we’ve learnt over the past year, it’s that life is uncertain.
We hope these tips will inspire ways to strengthen your child’s mental health. Just as with travel, we encourage starting these habits at a young age, giving them the tools to face life’s future challenges.
1. Spend time outside
This might sound like it’s about physical health, but studies show that regular exercise and being in nature have a profound positive impact on mental health. Even if you’re finding it difficult to get kids outside (especially in cold weather) be sure to model the behaviour, as children learn and imitate by watching and listening to adults.
2. Promote creativity and play
Children find different ways to express themselves through creative play and this is an important part of healthy brain development and stress reduction. Pay attention to the activities your child loves, whether it’s games, sports, art, crafts or music, and encourage more of this. This works for adults too, so join in on the fun when you can!
3. Encourage them to step outside their comfort zone
If you avoid situations that make your child uncomfortable, they are missing out on an opportunity for growth. Taking measured risks, regardless of their outcome, are crucial moments in development. Research on anxiety suggests that if you avoid new experiences, your fear doesn’t decrease over time, but stays in high gear. Help your kids understand that feeling a little anxious when trying new things is normal and can ultimately help us flourish and enjoy lots of new experiences.
4. Teach stress management
Kids soon learn that all work and no play make for a dull and stressed-out mum and dad. So, this is another good one to teach by example. Small actions like mindfulness and breathing techniques can do wonders, but kids should also see how the adults in their lives value downtime and self-care. Just as your long bike ride helps alleviate your stress, teach your child that kicking the football might help alleviate theirs. For others, a quiet, inward activity, such as journal writing or yoga, might be more helpful. We, of course, are partial to regular family holidays as part of a stress management routine.
5. Spend quality time together
The demands of our everyday lives and the pull of technology have sadly led to families spending less time together. Exploring new things and embarking on new adventures together creates connection and great family memories. Kids might not always admit it, but they want quality time with supportive family members more than new gadgets and toys. These connections release feel-good chemicals such as dopamine and oxytocin, which are the body’s natural anti-depressants.
6. Let them be independent
I know we just said to spend more time with your kids, and now we’re saying to let them be independent, but the two can go hand-in-hand. Independence is more about allowing them to have their own ideas and opinions and less about allowing them to walk the dog around the block. Tell them what you think their strengths are, but honour your child’s unique personality. Let them decide what they want to do on the next family holiday. These actions will nourish their confidence and show them they are a valued member of the family.
7. Teach them to practice gratitude
In a world that tends to value overabundance and instant gratification, it’s more important than ever to teach kids about gratitude. Even if at first you have to remind them to say thank you for the ice cream cone in their hand, this is a learning tool for genuine gratitude down the line. Help them find appreciation for everyday moments by taking turns around the dinner table, or before bedtime, to share the highlights of their day.
*We have provided links to many expert resources throughout this article, but it’s important to remember that if you see signs of a problem, talk to your child’s GP about your concerns.
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