In general, illness develops because of a loss of balance in the body’s regulatory system . An infection or traumatic incident for example overwhelms the body and illness is the outcome.
It’s the same thing for mental illnesses. There is always a stressor. One develops mental health problems when they are unable to adapt to the so called stressor.
The World Health Organization defines mental health as, “a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community”
According to CMHA Ontario, about 70% of mental health challenges have their onset in childhood. A very startling statistic. If more of these adults were given proper care and attention as children, we could have less mental health issues today.
As a parent it’s something I’m reading up on and there are many things I hope to do well for my kids. And this listicle is a note to myself and all caregivers out there that we can make the world a better place, starting from the home front.
1. Work on your coping mechanisms as an adult.
The blind cannot lead the blind. You certainly cannot teach what you do not know. As adults we need to learn to self regulate. We need to develop healthier ways of responding to stressors. We need to let our head guide us and not our emotions in responding to situations. And I don’t mean just head knowledge, I mean practical knowledge. Kids don’t do what you say, they do what they see us doing.
2. Dignity and respect
I refused a relative from holding my kid the other day because her hands were wet. It just didn’t make sense. They were offended and commented that the kid wasn’t complaining. That’s how despise sets in. Any disrespect or indignity that younger ones face stems from the preposition that they do not know any better. And because they do not know any better, they are unable to demand for what is right and set boundaries at this tender age. In giving them respect we teach them how they ought to be treated and how they ought to treat others as well.
Kids do not need to be our equals for us to treat them right. Would you yell at your superior if she spills your drink? why then do you yell at the kids? I’m guilty of this as well, so Dear adults, parents or not, we can all do better.
3. Vary your children’s schedules
There is no fun in rigidity. Whether they have to go to official schools or home schools, vary your children’s schedules. Expose them to different things and different people. There are a variety of extracurricular activities that can be done for free or for some amount of money. Go for a walk in the neighborhood. Plan a picnic. Go on hiking. Visit the zoo or aquarium. Take them to see grandma or grand pa’s farm. Take them to the movies. Take them to visit your crazy relatives, crazy but safe to be around with. Let them learn to take in different scenarios
4. Allow them to be their own person
I am very much an introverted adult and I was very much antisocial as a child. My parents worried about me, but they let me be. My mom said she bought the prettiest dresses for me and I would shun them for khaki shorts. I didn’t like to interact with others and didn’t know how to make friends. They loved me just as I was. In their own way they still tried to make sure I joined clubs and went on outings and mixed with different people, but there was no compulsion to make friends. My parents are not medically oriented and did not have as much information as I or other parents have today. Still, they let me be my own person. They accepted me and loved me. I believe that was key for me to accept who I am and love me as well. Dear parents, please be your child’s greatest cheer leader.
5. Allow them to make mistakes
Ohhh this can be a tough one. However, if you think of Albert Einstein’s several failed experiments before he succeeded, you might accept this point. Children first struggle to crawl and then they wobble in their walking. They run, they fall. There is falling at the beginning of every stage before perfection is achieved. I hope we can let them be even as they grow older. I hope we can always show love and encouragement instead of criticism and disappointment whenever they fail. Life is a series of test runs, they sooner we teach them that, they better equipped they might be for adulting.
6. Introduce them to Sports and Physical exercise.
I let my kids have Chocolate every once in a while, ice cream, cakes. These sweets can produce feel good hormones and leave us craving for more. Guess what else has an effect on hormones? Exercise decreases levels of cortisol which is a stress hormone. Exercise will also teach your kids resilience and get them on the right path to healthy joints and a healthy heart. And its not just them, we need to take exercise seriously as parents too. Let it be a culture in the home, habits become a way of life.
7. The Importance of Sleep
Afternoon sleep is especially important for children. And so is night time sleep. And good sleep starts with good sleep hygiene. You may have to minimize your use of gadgets and screen time before bedtime.
8. A healthy balanced diet
It can be easy to go for cereals and fast foods dear mom and Dad. However, you wont be doing your little one a favor now or in the long run. Fruits and vegetables can be incorporated in a variety of ways into our meals. Keep searching and keep trying until you find the one that is acceptable for your kids. You can help them to set the foundation for health eating now.
9. Love your kids
You need to love yourself right to be able to love your kids right. And for my working parents who cannot afford to be stay at home parents. This is reminder that it is not the quantity of time but the quality of time spent with you ward or wards that matters. Tell them you love them, speak good things into their lives and show them with your actions.
10. Teach them the knowledge of God.
In an article on medium by David Cerqueira, he speaks about how subjective the truth has become in today’s society and he could be no further from the truth. These days everyone has their own truth. Teach your children that there is only one truth and there is only one way. Man keeps searching and searching but cannot find satisfaction in the world. We can discover new foods and new ways of cooking and make more money and travel to the moon and yet there will always be a gaping hole in our hearts which can only be filled by Jesus. I hope you teach your kids that Jesus is all they need in this fallen world.