by Natasha Rentas - Team Village Connect
As we grow up and reminisce on the carefree days of our youth, we tend to forget how tough being a kid can be. We need to remember that while being a kid can be fun, kids are humans too, and they are not immune to the stressors of daily life. It is important for parents, guardians, teachers, and other caretakers to create safe spaces for children to express themselves. Teaching them to manage stress, build resilience, and foster positive emotional well-being from a young age can set them up for a healthier, happier future.
We know your child's mental health is your top priority, but it doesn't have to be all serious business. In fact, there are plenty of fun and creative ways to support your child's mental health and well-being. Let's explore some mental health activities you and your child can do together!
1. Emotional Check-Ins
Emotions don’t have to be scary! Set aside a time every day for an “emotion check-in.” Be sure to create a comfortable and safe space where your child feels encouraged to share their feelings. Ask them how they’re feeling and why. Encourage them to use a feelings chart with colorful faces to help identify their emotions. This practice promotes emotional awareness and healthy expression.
2. Practice Mindful Breathing
Although breathing occurs automatically, with our bodies performing it without conscious thought, our breath shares a direct connection with our thoughts, feelings, and emotions. Mindfulness exercises are an excellent way to help children manage stress and stay present. Teach them the power of deep, mindful breathing. Sit in a quiet room and guide your child to take slow, deep breaths. You can use fun props like a "breathing buddy" (a stuffed animal placed on their belly) to help create a safe space where your child can fully relax. This simple activity can help calm their minds and reduce anxiety.
3. Keep a Gratitude Journal
Gratitude is a powerful tool for mental well-being. Encourage your child to keep a gratitude journal. Let them pick out a notebook with their favorite character or let them decorate the cover so that they are excited to use it. At the end of each day, have them write down three things they are thankful for. It could be as simple as "dessert" or "getting to watch TV after dinner.” This helps them focus on the positives in their life which can boost their mood and perspective!
4. Art as Self-Expression
Art can be a unique and powerful way for kids to express tricky emotions. Give your child some art supplies and ask them to draw, paint, or create how they're feeling at that moment. Don't be afraid to get messy. Teach them that sometimes feelings are messy and art is a healthy way to work through them! This activity not only allows kids to express their emotions but also serves as a conversation starter about their feelings! Plus, it allows them to stretch their creative energy!
Additional Ways to Create a Safe Space for Your Child
Embrace inclusive language. Always encourage, never require. Try to avoid forcing your child's participation in an activity or telling them how they should approach a task, instead opt for language that empowers autonomy, like saying, "I invite you to..." or "I support and encourage your choice to..." and allow children the freedom to decide how and when they engage.
Create space for post-activity discussions. Opening up is hard, even for adults. So when engaging in exercises that evoke emotions or feelings, it's crucial to follow up with your child. You should also allow your child the space to decompress, process, and reflect.
Communicate. One of the most crucial factors in promoting your child's mental health is open communication. Encourage your child to express their thoughts, feelings, and concerns without judgment. Listen actively, validate their emotions, and offer empathy. Let them find a safe space in your support.
Celebrate asking for help! It's okay not to have all the answers and it's okay to seek additional support from a licensed mental health counselor if needed.
Supporting your child's mental health and well-being doesn't have to be scary nor does it have to be a chore. Infuse it with imagination, playfulness, and love, and you'll nurture their emotional resilience while creating cherished memories. As you embark on this fun-filled journey, you're not just supporting their mental health; you're also strengthening your bond and creating a healthy family atmosphere where wellness is an adventure worth embarking on together.
About Our Village Contributor
Team Village Connect- Marketing and Customer Care Specialist
Natasha Rentas is a writer, communicator, and multimodal content creator from Orlando, FL. She is currently finishing up her B.A. in writing and rhetoric at UCF, and she hopes to continue grad school under UCF's rhetoric and composition, M.A. program. She wants to research and work with science, public health, and crisis communications to connect and unite people through language. When she is not writing or studying, Tasha can be found taking photos or hanging out with her dog, Mucca.
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All content on our blog, including text, graphics, images, and any other material, is intended solely for informational purposes. Despite our passion for health, we're not doctors or dietitians, and we don't wear lab coats to work. Our advice isn't a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the guidance of a qualified health provider with any questions or concerns you may have about your health.