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10 Tips to Building Mental Wellness in Kids and Teens

Each year, the need for mental health services among our children continues to grow. Therefore, we invite you to be part of the solution to help kids and teens build resiliency and positive mental health, which will better equip them to face the obstacles and struggles of life with confidence.

The American Psychological Association suggests the following tips for parents, teachers, and those who work with youth to help build resilient children and teens.

Make connections.

Teach the importance of engaging and connecting with their peers, including the skill of empathy, and listening to others. Find ways to help children foster connectivity by suggesting they reach out to peers in person or through phone, video chats, and texts. It’s also important to build a strong family network.

Empower children to help others.

Children who may feel helpless can feel empowered by helping others. Engage children in age-appropriate volunteer work or ask for assistance yourself with tasks that they can master. Brainstorm with children on finding ways they can help others in their class or in grades below.

Maintain a daily routine.

Sticking to a routine can be comforting to children, especially younger children who crave structure in their lives. Work with children to develop a routine, and highlight times that are for school, work, and play. You might need to be flexible with some routines, particularly during times of distress or transition. At the same time, schedules and consistency are important to maintain.

Take a break.

While some anxiety can motivate us to take positive action, we also need to validate all feelings. Teach children how to focus on something that they can control or can act on. Help them challenge unrealistic thinking. Ask them to examine the chances of the worst-case scenario and what they might tell a friend who has those worries. Reduce or eliminate troubling TV and social media for you and children you care for and be mindful of adult conversations in front of children.

Teach children the importance of well-being.

Help children understand the value of basic self-care. This may be making more time to eat properly, exercise, and get sufficient sleep. Make sure children have time to have fun and participate in activities they enjoy. Caring for oneself and even having fun will help children stay balanced and better deal with stressful times.

Move toward your goals.

Teach children to set reasonable goals and to move toward them one step at a time. Establishing goals will help children focus on a specific task and can build the resilience to move forward in the face of challenges.

Nurture a positive self-view.

Remind children of ways they have successfully handled hardships in the past and help them understand that these past challenges build the strength to handle future challenges. Encourage your child to trust themselves to solve problems and make appropriate decisions.

Keep things in perspective and maintain a hopeful outlook.

Even when a child is facing very painful events, help them look at the situation in a broader context and keep a long-term perspective. Although a child may be too young to consider a long-term look on their own, help them see that there is a future beyond the current situation and that the future can be good.

Look for opportunities for self-discovery.

Tough times are often when children learn the most about themselves. Help children take a look at how whatever they’re facing can teach them “what am I made of.”

Accept change.

Change can often be scary for children and teens. Help children and youth see that change is part of life and new goals can replace ones that have become unattainable. It is important to examine what is going well and to have a plan of action for what is not going well.

If a child is experiencing a mental health emergency, please proceed to the closest emergency room. If you have general mental health questions, please click here or call 757-668-HOPE (4673).

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About Sam Fabian

About Sam   Fabian Community outreach program manager Sam Fabian oversees parent education and outreach programs at CHKD. She coordinates CHKD conferences and special events and collaborates with community boards and coalitions. She also develops programmatic partnerships with local schools, recreation centers and clubs and civic organizations.

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