Protecting Your Child’s Mental and Emotional Health
Good nutrition in childhood can help build a foundation for good health throughout a person’s life. Similar long-lasting benefits can be found in building strong emotional and mental health from childhood through adolescence. By fostering our children’s emotional development and addressing any mental health issues that might arise, we can help ensure children enter adulthood with the resilience and confidence to cope with life’s ups and downs.
What’s the Difference Between Emotional and Mental Health?
Most of us understand how a healthy diet and secure home can promote a child’s physical well-being. But we might not be as clear on how we can support our children’s emotional and mental well-being. First, it helps to know what these terms mean.
- Emotional health refers to how we express our feelings and react to the world around us. Anxiety, fear and low self-esteem are examples of possible emotional health issues.
- Mental health refers to how we process or think about information. It can be affected by biochemical factors in the brain that can result in depression, bipolar disorder and issues with attention and hyperactivity.
Obviously, these two factors are very closely related. For example, a mental health condition like depression can affect your child’s emotional reaction to things that happen at home and in school. But each of these issues requires separate attention from parents and teachers.
Building Strong Emotional Health
One of the most important ways we can help our children grow into emotionally healthy adults is by modeling healthy behavior ourselves. Children quickly pick up on the ways adults around them respond to stress, anger and disappointments. Experts say we can also nurture our kids’ emotional health by providing:
- Unconditional love
- Opportunities for play with other children
- Encouraging and nurturing teachers and other caretakers
- Safe and secure surroundings
- Appropriate guidance and discipline
Addressing Mental Health Concerns To ensure our children’s mental health, we need to pay attention to conversations and behaviors at home and in school. The American Psychological Association estimates about 15 million young people in the United States can currently be diagnosed with a mental health disorder. Even more children could be at risk because of their family history. Helping children and their families manage difficulties early in life could help prevent mental health problems down the road.
Getting assistance can begin with a school counselor or social worker. These professionals can give you advice and referrals. Your child’s pediatrician can be another resource if you are concerned about your child’s mental health. Treatment options, including therapy and inpatient treatment, could be covered by your health insurance policy. But be sure to check with your insurer and also make sure the doctors or therapists you choose are in your plan’s network.