Talking about mental health and our emotions this month of November, after our kids have been in school for a couple of months, seems like a good topic of conversation for us parents.
School-aged children and teens deal with emotions that sometimes can adversely affect their performance during the day. Anger, over issues both small and large, can create bad moods that affect not only the child/teen but everybody else around them.
Sometimes emotions may be a result of stress. This can cause issues like irritability, poor sleep, changes in eating and social withdrawal. If there is enough disturbance in their daily life and performance, then it’s a good idea to step in as parents to help them out.
You can start by extending an invitation for discussion but don’t be surprised, and don’t force the issue, if they are not ready to talk yet. Simply provide a physical and emotional presence as you wait for them to take you up on that invitation. If you have an idea about what is going on, you can share your feelings of similar situations you may have experienced yourself. Open ended questions in a non-judgmental way can lead to good discussions.
Real life experiences are a great way to teach them how to manage their emotions. If there is a final message on these teaching points, it is that they need to learn that emotions happen, and they do not control our lives. It is possible to approach this in a methodical way, and as a parent, we always have to make sure we remain emotionally in control and balanced. Learning how to identify these feelings is the beginning of knowing what is going on with that bad mood. It is possible that we may have to role model and talk it out for them if they are having difficulty identifying their emotions. Next up, we need to teach them they can regulate emotions and thereby reduce other behavior problems. For one child it may be sitting in a comfortable spot to read a book but for another it may be burning some energy in the back yard before they come back in for a snack. Teaching them to be responsible for their feelings (so they don’t take it out on others) and learning some resiliency (they can change their mood) is a good start to a healthy mental state.
Developing resiliency is a good way to realize they can be in control of their emotions… So not only can they can deal better with stress and anger, for example, but they can extend this to other emotions such as fear and anxiety that may lead to self-doubt and lack of confidence. Your child may be curious about trying out for the soccer team, but they are not sure. A gentle push and acknowledgement of these feelings can help them try it out. These opportunities, in turn, may lead to some failures and mistakes, that when framed in a positive and teachable moment, can lead to growth and eventual self-confidence.
Here are some other tips to help your child develop a positive mental health:
If you feel that emotions and stress have led your child or teen to significant anxiety or depression, let us know as we may be able to help and may provide other solutions. We are here for you!
(I originally published this article on Bronson’s web site, https://www.bronsonhealth.com/news/pediatric-news-/)
References and other reading: