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How parents can foster their children’s mental health

Parenting By Audrey Masitsa
All parents play a vital role in fostering their children's mental health

All parents want their children to be happy. Thus, it is important to foster your child’s physical, emotional and psychological well-being, particularly merntal health. Mental health disorders vary in degree from mild to severe. According to a World Health Organisation (WHO) estimate, 10-20% of children worldwide have mental health problems. Of these, half occur in children by the time they are 14 years old.

Some of the most common mental health disorders that affect children, as stated by African Population and Health Research Centre (APHRC), include; anxiety, depression, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and conduct disorders. Others are eating and learning disorders as well as substance abuse.

Since most cases of mental illness go undetected and untreated, for children, they can continue into adulthood affecting the individual’s relationships, work, health, among other aspects of their lives.

Below are ways in which parents can nurture their child’s mental health.

1. Build strong relationships

Make time for your kids perhaps at the end of the day and during the weekend. Talk to them, ask about their day, the highs and lows, their plans, class work among other things.

When you spend more time with your children, you become a part of their lives. You get to know who their friends are, how they spend their free time, what they watch on TV, and what they do online. This will help you get to know your child better. It will then be easier to notice when something is amiss.

2. Teach them how to deal with difficult situations

Life comes with its ups and downs and children are also faced with difficult situations. There will be times when things don’t go their way and they get upset. Teach them how to handle negative as well as positive emotions. This will go a long way in helping them to learn self-control and gain emotional maturity which is essential for their growth.

3. Encourage them to express their emotions

When you cultivate a strong relationship with your child, they will feel encouraged to come to you whenever they have a problem. Encourage your children to talk about issues in their lives rather than dismissing them as unimportant. Provide solutions and where appropriate, allow them to propose solutions. By doing the this, parents will be able to promote good mental health in their children as well as notice the early signs of mental health problems and seek help in good time.

Many mental health issues are easily treatable and the sooner you notice them the better.

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