Children’s Mental Health

July is Mental Illness Awareness month – a time to reflect on mental health and give thought to how we can go about attaining it.

The World Health Organisation defines health as  “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” This definition focuses on the positive aspects of mental health. Our mental health is part of our overall health and enables us to cope effectively with our daily life, be productive and reach our full potential. It is, therefore, well worth looking after.

Everyone is susceptible to mental health problems, irrespective of age, gender, culture or socio-economic group. Feelings such as fear, anxiety, irritability and sadness are common and are generally of short duration. However, if they last longer and begin disrupting our daily functioning, they could be signs of something more serious. Biological factors, our current environment and negative life experiences all contribute to our mental health difficulties.

Twenty-five % of children suffer with mental health complications. Parents play an important role in promoting their young ones’ mental health. There are several ways in which this can be done:

  1. Provide unconditional love: It is important that children are loved unconditionally. They need to know that whatever mistakes they make, whatever grades they achieve, however “naughty” they are, they will still be accepted wholeheartedly.
  2. Discipline consistently and lovingly: Teach your children the difference between acceptable and unacceptable behaviour and be the perfect role model. The consequences for incorrect behaviour should be fair and consistent. Set reasonable limits and allow your child to make age appropriate choices.
  3. Boost self-esteem: Children rely on adults to assist in developing positive self-esteem and confidence. A child that is always experiencing disapproval grows up believing they are unworthy. A child’s behavior needs to be separated from them as a person – bad behavior does not mean a bad person. Be on the look out for positive behaviours and praise them rather than only reprimanding unsuitable behaviours. For every negative comment there should be 5 positive ones.
  4. Provide time for play: Children learn through play which contributes to  both their physical and mental health. Setting aside time regularly to play with your child one-on-one, is a great bonding opportunity which increases their sense of worth and self-esteem.
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