Promoting Your Child’s Mental Health
As parents you are responsible for your children’s physical safety and emotional well-being. There is no one right way to raise a child. Parenting styles vary, but all caregivers should agree on expectations for your child. The following suggestions are not meant to be complete. Many good books are available in libraries or at bookstores on developmental stages, constructive problem-solving, discipline styles, and other parenting skills.
Do your best to provide a safe home and community for your child, as well as nutritious meals, regular health check-ups, immunizations, and exercise. Be aware of stages in child development so you don’t expect too much or too little from your child.
Encourage your child to express his or her feelings; respect those feelings. Let your child know that everyone experiences pain, fear, anger, and anxiety. Try to learn the sources of these feelings. Help your child express anger positively without resorting to violence.
Promote mutual respect and trust. Keep your voice level down – even when you don’t agree. Keep communication channels open. Listen to your child. Use words and examples your child can understand. Encourage questions. Provide comfort and assurance. Be honest. Focus on the positives. Express your willingness to talk about any subject.
Look at your own problem-solving and coping skills. Are you setting a good example? Seek help if you are overwhelmed by your child’s feelings or behaviors or if you are unable to control your own frustration or anger.
Encourage your child’s talents and accept limitations. Set goals based on the child’s abilities and interests – not someone else’s expectations. Celebrate accomplishments. Don’t compare your child’s abilities to those of other children; appreciate the uniqueness of your child. Spend time regularly with your child.
Foster your child’s independence and self worth. Help your child deal with life’s ups and downs. Show confidence in your child’s ability to handle problems and tackle new experiences.
Discipline constructively, fairly, and consistently. Discipline is a form of teaching, not physical punishment. All children and families are different; learn what is effective for your child. Show approval for positive behaviors. Help your child learn from his or her mistakes.
Love unconditionally. Teach the value of apologies, cooperation, patience, forgiveness, and consideration for others. Do not expect to be perfect; parenting is a difficult job.
Don’t give up. It is important that you keep looking until you find the right services for you child. Some children and families need counseling or family supports. Others may need medical care, residential care, day treatment, education services, legal assistance, rights protection, transportation, or case management. Some families don’t seek help because they are afraid of what others may say or think. Other barriers also may get in the way, such as the cost of care, limited insurance benefits, or no health insurance. While these may be problems for your family, treatment is necessary. Austin Child Guidance Center is an outpatient mental health center for children and families where help can be obtained and a sliding fee scale is available based on family size and income.