Proactive Strategies To Strengthen Your Child's Mental Health
Education Parenting

Proactive Strategies To Strengthen Your Child’s Mental Health

The article is developed in partnership with BetterHelp.

The mental health of children is a topic of frequent discussion in the news—and for good reason. Unhealthy parenting styles, like
coercive parenting, can harm the mental health of kids and contribute to the worsening youth mental health crisis.

When children have good mental health, they’re more likely to maintain strong friendships, develop healthy self-esteem, persevere through hardship, and bounce back in the face of hardships. Supporting your child with things like validating their feelings and teaching them self-care strategies can improve their mental health and quality of life. 


What is resilience? 

What is resilience? 

Resilience is the ability to adapt to and recover from challenging life experiences, such as pandemics, parental divorce, natural disasters, or the death of a loved one. Resilience encompasses learned skills that can be developed. But the ease with which someone develops resilience is influenced by several factors, including their genetics, upbringing, other environments, and the situation at hand. But, the most significant contributor to a child’s resilience is their relationships with parents and caregivers.


How to Building Your Child’s Mental Health for Lifelong Wellbeing

Many parents focus a lot of their energy on protecting their children’s physical health and safety. But a child’s mental health is just as important as physical health for their quality of life. The following strategies can help your child develop a strong sense of themselves, protect their wellbeing, and build resilience in the face of hardships: 


  • Give preventative talk therapy a try 

Talk therapy can be an effective tool to promote well-being, enhance executive functioning skills, and destigmatize discussions about mental health. Therapists can identify problematic behaviors and thought patterns and help reframe them before they lead to serious mental health concerns. You can read more about children’s therapy and whether it’s a good option for your child in this article from BetterHelp

Even if your child decides to see a therapist preventatively just a few times, it can be beneficial to have established care with someone they trust. That way, if mental health challenges or significant life stressors arise, you can often schedule a visit with their therapist more quickly. 


  • Encourage conversations about mental health

Discussions about mental health are becoming more commonplace in the media and schools, but it’s still often stigmatized. Having age-appropriate discussions with your child about mental health can destigmatize and demystify confusing thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.

To introduce the concept of mental disorders, make a comparison to physical disorders. For example:

  • If someone has asthma, their lungs constrict in response to allergens. To reduce the risk of an asthma attack, they’ll keep their house tidy and exercise indoors when pollen counts are high. When they start having symptoms, like wheezing, they’ll take medications to get relief. 
  • Similarly, when someone has a mental health challenge, like anxiety, their brain may get more easily overwhelmed. But doing things like practicing deep breathing can help manage symptoms. And, when symptoms are harder to manage, they can be treated with things like medications and talk therapy. 

Because of the stigma that is often connected to mental health challenges, it’s common for children to hide their feelings from their parents. Encourage your child to share by:

  • Validate their feelings—Instead of saying, “Stop being a baby,” say “It’s understandable that you feel scared. You can always talk to me.”
  • Listen to what they have to say.
  • Empathize with their experiences. 
  • Remind them that their feelings are not their fault. 

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) recommends having frequent conversations with children about how they’re feeling


  • Take care of yourself

The mental health of parents and children is often interconnected. When parents are experiencing mental health challenges, like depression or substance use disorder, they can impact their children. Studies have found that parents who report having poor mental health are more likely to have children who have lower mental health. 

By taking care of your own needs, you can be a positive role model for your children. Healthy self-care practices, like getting routine exercise, taking care of your personal hygiene, and going to therapy when needed can improve your mental health and provide your child with a healthier environment to grow up in.  


  • Consider the appropriate use of social media

Parenting decisions around things like Smartphones and social media are personal, but the U.S. Surgeon General argues that social media is not sufficiently safe for children and adolescents, and steps should be taken to mitigate the risk.

For example, you may decide that laptops and phones must be kept out of bedrooms and private spaces or set limits on the amount of time your child is allowed to use social media sites. 


  • Teach self-care

It’s important to teach your child that taking care of themselves is part of a healthy (not selfish) lifestyle. And self-care doesn’t have to include things like bubble baths, massages, or buying expensive leisure clothing. Instead, show them that they can do simple things to take care of themselves, like: 

  • Talking about their feelings 
  • Taking breaks when they need them
  • Taking deep breaths 
  • Spending time outdoors 
  • Doing something silly and fun 
  • Problem-solving
  • Making space for quiet time 
  • Writing about their feelings 
  • Practicing personal hygiene 
  • Focusing on their strengths 
  • Enforcing healthy boundaries 

When you encourage your child to take care of their needs early in their life, they may be more likely to carry these healthy coping skills into adulthood.


  • Challenge negative self-talk 

Has your child ever said something like, “I’m stupid,” “I’ll never do anything right,” “No one will ever like me,” or “I can’t do it”? 

These are all forms of negative self-talk, and while they’re not particularly uncommon amongst kids, they can be very harmful for their self-esteem and well-being. When your child says something like this, respond promptly. For example, you could say, “I know this is a tough homework assignment, but you can do it.”


  • Maintain healthy relationships 

Encourage your child to nurture their relationship with their grandparents, cousins, and other extended family members. If they live far away, routine video calls or phone calls can help maintain these supportive relationships.
Additionally, you can help your child build a strong social network with their peers by organizing playdates, sleepovers, and extracurricular group activities. 


  • Provide sincere praise 

Many parents are tempted to overpraise outcomes and things that children are not in control of (such as their appearance), while underpraising their efforts. However, to develop self-esteem that boosts their mental health, you should prioritize praising their efforts. 

For example, instead of saying, “Nice job winning the soccer game, you’re the best player on the team,” say something like, “You and your teammates have been working hard this season, and it was cool to watch everyone work together to score that goal. I’m really impressed by your dedication and persistence.” 



According to a study published in Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 21.8% of children in the U.S. ages 3-17 experience mental, emotional, or behavioral health challenges

Parents can take steps to help support their child’s mental health and build resilience, and they should also learn to identify when their child may need more support from a professional, like a mental health or medical professional.   




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