What Every Child Needs for Good Mental Health

Four kids hanging out together in the garden
Four kids hanging out together in the garden

When making the decision to become a parent, many of the items on an internal checklist include the physical needs of a child. Is there enough money to feed and clothe a baby who is going to get bigger and need more clothes and food? Are the current job and household situation conducive to adding a dependant? The questions and list go on with other similar needs and concerns. Some of the lesser thought out needs of a baby, child, preteen, and so on have to do with their mental health and wellness. Make sure to add these basic needs to the checklist too.

Life can get hectic with jobs, homework, and extracurricular activities, but one of the most important things a child needs from his or her parents is unconditional love. There is always time for love. Children need to know and feel the love from their parents in good times and in bad. They shouldn’t feel as though parents’ love depends on their accomplishments and vanishes when they have done something bad. Mistakes happen, and kids should know the love is there even when they do.

It can even be helpful to children to hear of their parent’s mistakes and failures. This shows kids that literally everyone makes mistakes and can boost their own confidence, which is another way to nurture overall mental health and wellness in children. By encouraging and praising small accomplishments early on like first steps, parents are evoking a sense of drive and exploration in the young minds of their children. This makes them curious and more willing to try new things and new activities later. And when they do fail, because they will, ask them how it makes them feel to have made poorly on a test or to have lost a big game, ask them what they can do differently next time, and encourage them to keep trying. Build that confidence.

It is also important to make time for play. Playtime allows the creative juices to flow while also teaching problem-solving skills and self-control. By playing with other children their age, kids also learn how to play and interact with peers, develop a sense of belonging, and are able to discover strengths and weaknesses. And, let’s not forget the health benefits of physical activity. Other than evoking happiness, running around and yelling are great calorie burners and are great ways to maintain overall health and wellness.

As your little prodigy grows and learns, discipline should also be something that they are familiar with when their actions warrant it. Children need to be clear of your expectations and the expectations of their teachers, coaches, and any adult figure. By being clear on what is expected and receiving fair and consistent discipline when they fall short of those expectations, they can learn and continue to grow as people. Criticize the behavior, not the child and follow through with what you say repercussions will be. They need to know you are serious and will hold them accountable for their actions.

There are many different parenting styles and ways of raising children because there is no manual to follow our key to success. But, at the end of the day, if a child feels loved and cared for, has a sense of self-worth, is able to play and have fun, and knows what his or her parents expect, then the whole family will feel happier and healthier, mentally.