5 Tips for Supporting Children and Teens Mental Health

Your RAFT Counseling Team

Life is filled with challenges, especially for young people who are just figuring out the complexities of finding their own path. However, these challenges also present numerous opportunities for joy, growth, and self-discovery.

At RAFT Counseling, we understand the importance of supporting children and teens as they face these challenges without denying them of their autonomy. Our dedicated therapists have written this blog to give our families, parents, caregivers and guests some insights and practical advice, helping you continue the already amazing job you do in raising a happy and healthy family.

Let’s explore how to help your children develop resilience, self-esteem, and emotional intelligence, while maintaining open lines of communication and establishing a supportive home environment. And remember, we’re here for you. If you have questions or need additional information, don’t hesitate to contact us.

Setting Realistic Expectations

One of the first steps in supporting your child’s mental health is to set realistic expectations. Children and teens often feel pressure to perform well academically, socially, and in extracurricular activities. As a parent, it's important to help them set achievable goals and understand that it’s okay to make mistakes. Here are some ways to set realistic expectations:

1. Encourage Effort Over Perfection: Praise your child for their effort and hard work rather than focusing solely on the outcome. This helps them develop a growth mindset, understanding that skills and intelligence can be developed with effort and practice.

2. Understand Developmental Stages: Be aware of what is developmentally appropriate for your child’s age. Unrealistic expectations can lead to unnecessary stress and feelings of inadequacy. This is something a developmental-behavioral pediatrician and your children’s therapist can help you with.

3. Model Flexibility: Show your children that it’s okay to change goals and adapt to new situations. Life is unpredictable, and flexibility is a valuable skill.

4. Provide Support and Encouragement: Offer support and encouragement, particularly when your child is facing challenges. Let them know that you believe in their ability to overcome obstacles.

Promoting Positive Self-Esteem

Self-esteem is crucial for mental health in youngsters. Children with high self-esteem are more likely to have a positive outlook on life, handle stress more effectively, and be willing to take on new challenges. Here are some strategies to promote positive self-esteem in your children.

  1. Offer Unconditional Love: Let your child know that your love is not dependent on their achievements or behavior. Unconditional love provides a foundation of security and self-worth.
  2. Encourage Independence: Allow your child to make choices and take on responsibilities appropriate for their age. This fosters a sense of autonomy and competence.
  3. Provide Positive Feedback: Recognize and celebrate your child’s strengths and accomplishments. Positive reinforcement helps build confidence and self-esteem.
  4. Teach Self-Compassion: Encourage your child to treat themselves with kindness and understanding, especially during times of failure or disappointment. Self-compassion can buffer the negative effects of stress and failure.

Establishing Consistent Routines

Routines provide children with a sense of security and predictability. Consistent routines can help reduce anxiety and create a stable environment. Here are some ways to establish effective routines.

  1. Set Regular Bedtimes: A consistent sleep schedule is crucial for mental and physical health. Ensure your child gets adequate sleep by setting and maintaining a regular bedtime.
  2. Create Daily Schedules: Develop a daily schedule that includes time for homework, chores, play, and relaxation. This may sound unnecessary if you know every day you’ll get to all these things at some point, but consistency helps children know exactly what to expect and manage their time effectively.
  3. Incorporate Family Time: Regular family activities and mealtimes foster connection and communication. Make time for shared activities, such as family dinners, game nights, or outdoor activities. Try to do these at designated "screen-free zones", where electronic devices are not allowed. This will allow you to connect with each other– and not with the wifi!
  4. Be Flexible: Yes, consistency is still important, but it’s also necessary to know when to be flexible and adapt routines when needed. Life can be unpredictable, and it’s important to model adaptability to avoid anxiety.

Teaching Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand and manage emotions effectively. Teaching your child emotional intelligence can help them navigate social interactions, cope with stress, and build strong relationships. Here are some tips on teaching emotional intelligence.

  1. Label Emotions: Help your child identify and label their emotions. Use terms like “happy,” “sad,” “angry,” and “frustrated” to expand their emotional vocabulary.
  2. Validate Feelings: Acknowledge your child’s emotions without judgment. Validating their feelings helps them feel understood and accepted.
  3. Teach Emotional Regulation: Show your child strategies for managing their emotions, such as deep breathing, counting to ten, or taking a break. Teach them that it’s okay to feel emotions, but it’s important to manage them in healthy ways.
  4. Model Emotional Intelligence: Demonstrate emotional intelligence in your interactions. Share your own emotions and how you manage them. Children learn a lot from observing their parents.

Teaching Boys Emotional Intelligence

Teaching emotional intelligence to boys can sometimes be challenging due to societal expectations and stereotypes about masculinity so we wanted to share some additional tips. Here’s how you can approach it:

  1. Break Down Stereotypes: Challenge the notion that boys should always be tough and unemotional. Encourage them to express a full range of emotions.
  2. Encourage Open Communication: Create a safe space for boys to talk about their feelings. Listen without judgment and offer support.
  3. Provide Male Role Models: We understand that sometimes boys don’t have a direct positive reference, but you can highlight other male role models you may know about who display emotional intelligence. This can help boys see that it’s okay for men to express and manage emotions.
  4. Use Stories and Media: Use books, movies, and TV shows that portray male characters dealing with emotions in healthy ways. This can provide examples and spark discussions.

Fostering Open Communication

Open communication is vital for a strong parent-child relationship. It builds trust, allows for the sharing of feelings, and provides opportunities for guidance and support. Here are some tips for fostering open communication.

  1. Be Available: Make time to talk with your child every day. Show them that you are available and interested in their thoughts and feelings.
  2. Listen Actively: Practice active listening by giving your full attention, maintaining eye contact, and showing empathy. Avoid interrupting or immediately offering solutions.
  3. Ask Open-Ended Questions: Encourage deeper conversations by asking open-ended questions that require more than a yes or no answer. For example, “What was the best part of your day?”
  4. Respect Their Perspective: Validate your child’s feelings and experiences, even if you don’t always agree. Respecting their perspective helps build trust and openness.
  5. Share Your Experiences: Sharing your own experiences and emotions can help normalize their feelings and show that it’s okay to talk about difficult topics.

Supporting your child’s mental health requires a lot of patience, understanding, and dedication. Remember that it’s okay to seek help and resources along the way. Parenting is challenging, but it’s also immensely rewarding. Every step you take to support your child’s emotional well-being contributes to their overall development and happiness.

At RAFT Counseling, we believe in the power of small, everyday actions to make a big difference. Celebrate the progress, no matter how small, and be kind to yourself in this process. You are doing an incredible job, and your dedication to your child’s mental health sets a foundation for their future resilience and joy. 

If ever you feel overwhelmed, know that support is available. Together, we can create a nurturing environment where children and teens thrive emotionally and mentally.

– Your RAFT Counseling Team

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