Mental health education and awareness needs to begin from an early age so that children can establish healthy habits that can last a lifetime. Families are especially important in reinforcing lifestyles that encourage positive mental health.
Here are some fun activities that families with young children can do together to help promote healthy living and positive mental health from an early age:
1) Cook with your kids. Children who participate in the food preparation process are more likely to eat healthier and try a variety of foods. The foods we eat are closely tied to how we feel and vice versa. By encouraging healthy eating, families can teach the importance of eating well, a lesson that will stay with the child as he grows and has to make his own choices for meals.
2) Have dinner together with no distractions. Research shows that children who eat dinner with their families with no distractions are more likely to feel less stress and anxiety. This is most likely because children thrive on structure and routine. Without routine and predictability, children begin to exhibit signs of stress and anxiety. Also, children feel more supported and feel a sense of belonging which increases their self-esteem in other aspects of life.
3) Go on walks or bike rides together. By exercising together, families encourage children to not only stay physically healthy but can emphasize the message that exercise is a good coping mechanism for emotional health issues. If you notice your child has low mood or is stressed from school, encourage a family outing that involves physical exercise.
4) Play with puppets, stuffed animals or dolls. Adults and children alike both need to engage in creative play for good mental health. Unfortunately as people age, creativity and playtime becomes de-empathized and linear, logical thinking takes over our days. Thankfully, children are masters at play and can help reignite imagination in their parents. Playing with puppets can also give insight to parents into the world and thoughts of their children. Often with puppets and toys, children will act out their thoughts and feelings the same way adults talk through them. Parents can then step in and address any negative feelings, thoughts, worries or fears the child may have before the anxieties become worse.
5) Have laughing contests. Children smile and laugh significantly more often in a day than adults. By playing together, families can reinforce the importance of laughter in maintaining positive mental and physical health.
6) Play an emotions based game. Children learn about emotions by interacting with their families. Unfortunately, most lessons about emotions are round about and sometimes more straightforward lessons can result in better understanding of how the child thinks, feels and how he can cope with his emotions in a healthy manner. Games like the Talking, Feeling, Doing game or a Memory game with emotions cards are great board games that you can play on family game night.
How do you promote positive mental health at your house? Please leave a comment below!