Parents have a significant role to play when it comes to their children’s mental health. From creating a healthy and safe home environment to providing support during tough times, parents’ behaviors and attitudes can have a positive or negative influence on children’s mental health. Being aware of this influence can help encourage parents to do their best at supporting their child’s mental well-being. Parents can use the following information to learn more about this significant role and effective ways to promote positive mental health.

Understanding Child’s Mental Health

What exactly is mental health in children? Just as physical health refers to the body, mental health refers to the mind. The way children behave, the emotions they experience, and the thoughts they have are all part of their mental health. These behaviors, thoughts, and emotions can have an impact on various aspects of a child’s life, from their relationship with parents to their academic performance. Supporting positive mental health is an essential part of helping children stay happy and healthy.

What kinds of mental health issues do children face? Children can develop depression and anxiety disorders just as adults do. In fact, these mental health issues are among the most common in children. Other kinds of mental health problems that children face include attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, more commonly known as ADHD, eating disorders, and behavioral problems.

The Influence of Parents on Child’s Mental Health

How can a parent’s attitude and behavior influence their child’s mental health? Parents who struggle with untreated mental health issues can have a negative influence on their children’s mental well-being. These parents often have a hard time providing or showing support and making other efforts to create a healthy home environment for their children.

When a child grows up in a home environment that is stable, loving, and safe, this can have a positive influence on their mental health. Parents who provide a structured environment, show empathy, and respect their child can help them gain self-confidence and learn to handle stress and other challenges in a healthy manner. This can help lower the risk of common mental health issues, such as anxiety or depression.

Parents with child mental health

The Role of Parents in Early Identification

Without proper treatment, mental health problems in children can lead to severe and potentially life-threatening behaviors, such as self-harm or substance abuse. It’s important for parents to be on the lookout for signs of mental health problems, so that these can be diagnosed and treated earlier rather than later.

The signs of mental health issues that children experience can vary widely, depending on age and the type of mental health disorder a child has. Some common signs that parents can look for include the following:

  • Changes in behavior, such as acting up more than usual
  • Mood swings or irritability
  • Changes in appetite
  • Sleep problems
  • Severe worries or feelings of sadness
  • Withdrawal from social situations, such as avoiding spending time with family or friends
  • Loss of interest in usual activities
  • Drop in academic performance

If parents think their child might have a mental health problem, they should first talk to their child’s doctor. Certain physical conditions can cause symptoms that are similar to mental health problem signs. Parents can also reach out to their child’s teacher and school counselor to discuss behavioral concerns. Contacting a mental health professional is also important, so that their child can be accurately diagnosed and begin therapy or other treatment as needed.

Parental Role in Treatment

What kinds of treatment options are available for mental health issues in children? In some cases, medications are used to ease mental health symptoms. For example, some children take medication for ADHD or anxiety disorders. Therapy is another treatment option that can help children with mental health problems. This involves having children talk to a therapist or counselor and learn how to manage mental health issues.

Parents can make sure children take medication as directed if this treatment option is used. When therapy is used for treatment, parents can ask the therapist for advice on how best to support their child at home. If parents are present during therapy sessions, they should be willing to listen to the therapist in order to better understand what their child is going through and how to help them.

While some children have individual therapy sessions, others participate in family therapy. Parents can take an active role in therapy sessions when family therapy is used. However, they should be respectful of their child’s feelings and follow the guidance of the therapist during these sessions. When children have individual therapy, parents can talk to them about what they’ve learned and discuss ways to support their child with the therapist after each session.

Positive mental health at home

Promoting Positive Mental Health at Home

How can parents help their child develop positive mental health in the home? Parents can take steps to set up a positive environment at home that encourages children to talk about their feelings or any other issues they’re experiencing. Establishing routines and providing structure can also promote positive mental health, since these help children feel more secure and less anxious. Helping children develop healthy habits when it comes to sleep, nutrition, exercise, screen time, and other areas of their life are also important ways to support mental health at home.

When discussing mental health with children, parents should consider their age and experiences. Parents can talk about mental health in greater depth with older children, but younger children might have a tough time understanding these concepts. When discussing mental health with younger children, parents can focus on talking about thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in simple terms. No matter what age a child is, it’s essential to bring up the topic of mental health in a supportive manner.

Supporting Your Child During Difficult Times

Showing empathy and understanding are important ways to support children when they’re struggling. Providing this kind of emotional support to children encourages them to open and talk about their thoughts and feelings. Supporting them through challenging times can also help children become more resilient and develop healthy coping mechanisms.

With parents having such a vital role in children’s mental health, it’s important to be proactive about it. Identifying signs of mental health problems early, talking about mental health, and providing a healthy home environment can help children develop positive mental health and get treatment for problems as needed.

About the Author: Amanda Delgado

Amanda Delgado has been writing about therapy and other mental health topics for more than a decade. She has a bachelor's degree in Psychology and a strong interest in therapeutic approaches, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy.