Effective Ways Of Promoting Mental Health In Young Children

When it comes to children’s mental health, things are never black and white.

It’s easier to understand children’s mental health through risk and protective factors. The relationship between these two factors can influence mental health in a substantial way.

In other words, your goal as a parent or carer in promoting your child’s mental health is to reduce risk factors while increasing protective factors. This strategy is known to have a positive effect on children’s mental development.

Let’s try to understand the influence risk and protective factors can have to your child’s wellbeing.

Understanding risk and protective factors

Environmental factors play an important part in your children’s development (both physical and mental).

As complex as the relationship between risk and protective mental health factors can be, it’s important to understand one simple rule. Risk factors increase the likelihood of mental health difficulties while protective factors balance out the risks for mental health difficulties.

How can you identify these two types of risks in your own family environment?

Let’s take a look at some their characteristics and a few examples…

  • Mental health risk factors are the liabilities in your child’s environment. They can increase the chance of mental health difficulties down the line. These may be specific events that threaten your child’s emotional or social development. They may include events like:
    • Family conflict or separation
    • Parents or carers suffering from mental health difficulties
    • Experiencing natural disasters, stressful events, trauma or abuse
    • The lack of social support such as a supportive family and close friends

Sometimes these risk factors can seem out of a parent’s or carer’s control. The best solution whenever struggling with these events is to ask for help. Reaching out for help is a sign of strength and the first step to recovery. There are so many great organisations that are not only helpful but also willing to give a hand.

Tip: Addressing risk factors as early as possible can have a tremendous influence on your child’s mental and physical wellbeing.

  • Mental health protective factors encourage a stable environment for your child. Protective factors can balance out the risks, offering you a certain amount of control over the prevention of mental health difficulties. They help build a family environment that nurtures resilience. Resilience is the ability to bounce back and recover from life’s difficulties. Protective factors include:
    • A stable and warm home environment
    • Supportive parents or carers
    • Ambition to overcome life challenges
    • Supportive community: family, close friends and neighbours
    • Routine and consistency

Knowing how mental health risk and protective factors can influence your child’s mental health can help parents in a number of ways. They can plan and support those resources that improve their child’s wellbeing.

Parents can focus on creating a supportive family environment for their children. A warm home environment can increase your children’s sense of belonging and connection, which can protect children from emotional vulnerabilities.

Try to assist your child’s social and emotional development. Initiate activities that promote a healthy development and celebrate developmental milestones. This will strengthen the bond with your child. Most of the time, strong family relationships promote healthy emotional development.

How can parents and carers promote their child’s mental health?

Understanding the factors that influence your child’s well being is the first step in promoting your child’s mental health.

Finding practical ways to do it is the next step.

How can you find practical ways to promote their mental health? Here are a few effective ways you can try…

  • Teach and help your child to understand, express and manage their feelings. It will help them create healthy coping mechanisms;
  • Talk about your child’s feelings and try to understand and respect them. This will create a strong bond between you and your child, which will help them feel safe and protected;
  • You can help your child to cope with difficult situations by being supportive;
  • Teach and help your child to understand stress, loss and grief are normal emotions we all go through in life;
  • Try to create and maintain routines, as this will create a consistent environment that can help your child feel safe;
  • Create and maintain a supportive relationship with close family members, it will create a secure environment for your child;
  • Encourage and initiate activities that stimulate your child’s social and emotional skills, such as expressing and managing their emotions. Be on the lookout for fun and interesting ways to stimulate their emotional development;
  • Look for opportunities to build partnerships and relationships with other parents and carers to support your child;
  • Observe your child’s behaviours and whenever you notice concerning tendencies, don’t hesitate to ask for specialised help.

Mental health difficulties can seem overwhelming and scary. The good news is that a supportive and stable environment can go a long way when it comes to supporting your child’s wellbeing.

It’s important to be involved in your child’s development and pay attention to their tendencies and behaviours. Whenever there’s cause for concern don’t hesitate to ask for specialised help. It can make a big difference in your family’s life.

Remember, struggles are meant to be shared.

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Playgroup NSW leads play-based programs and services for NSW families with children birth to school age, offering development, shared experiences, and family support, that results in active citizens and inclusive communities.