Kids Mental Health Tips – How to Make Your Kids Mentally Strong (Most Tips Apply to Adults too!)

My biggest goal as a parent is to help my kids develop emotional resilience, to help them become mentally strong and to equip them with tools to be able to handle the ups and downs of life.

Mental health is a topic that is very important to me. I know that a lot of mental health problems in adults have their roots in childhood years. So I want to do everything in my control, to make sure my kids grow up to be mentally healthy and mentally strong adults.

Our kids go through a lot of anxiety and stress – it could be social anxiety, it could be related to their studies or exams, it could be about making new friends or losing a friend, bullying, peer pressure, body image, feeling different from others and so on…And these days, on top of all this, they are dealing with pandemic anxiety and adjusting to a new normal! So it becomes even more important to support them and prioritize their mental health.

There are 7 ways in which I try to help my kids with building their emotional resilience:

Being a Good Role Model: I know as a parent, it’s very tempting to just teach your kids by lecturing. I do that too, to be honest. It’s so hard not to! I feel that as a parent, I have the license to lecture my kids! But lecturing rarely works. Teaching by example and being a role model is way more effective. What I like to do with my kids is to think out loud in front of them whenever I am dealing with a problem or I am confused or sad or angry. I want them to observe firsthand how mom deals with things going wrong or how mom deals with failure. It is especially important for me that I show them how I fail and how I deal with failure. The lesson I really want to instill in their minds is that it’s okay to fail. You just have to learn the lesson from your failure and move on. I love the quote “There are no mistakes, only lessons”. I often share this quote with my kids.

Helping my kids practice gratitude: I have recently purchased gratitude journals for my son and my daughter. I have them write down things that they are grateful for in those journals. They don’t always have the time or the energy to write. On days when they don’t feel like writing, I will just have them verbally share with me three things that they’re grateful for that day. The reason this is important is that being grateful, having an attitude of gratitude, is a trait of mentally strong people. And it also helps you build a growth mindset. When you are grateful for the things that you have, and not just focusing on the things that you want to have or the things that you’re missing in your life, it helps to promote your mental health and to make you a more positive and happier individual. And gratitude is something that even adults should practice.

Helping my Kids Develop Self-Love: Self-love is a skill that is so important to build for your kids’ current mental health and their mental health later as adults. Something I read in a parenting book a few years ago, is that for every negative reinforcement that you give to your child, you have to give them at least four positive reinforcements. So there has to be a 1:4 ratio.

So, whenever I see my kids work hard or achieve something, I make sure to praise them. I also make it a point to not praise them by saying things like, “Oh, you’re so smart!” I try to avoid using the words like “You’re so smart” or “You’re so pretty”. The compliments that I prefer to give to my kids are “You did really good effort” or “You worked really hard and I’m so proud of you”. You always want to be praising their hard work and their effort as opposed to how smart they are or the results that they have achieved. While giving them the positive reinforcement, remember to focus it on their effort and not the result of their effort. Because going forward, in their adult life, the result of what they do is many times outside of their control. By reinforcing their efforts, you are helping them to build a strong work ethic and perhaps less attachment to the result, less attachment to things that are outside of their control, and more emphasis on the things that are within their control, which is their actions and their hard work.

Meditation & Mindfulness: I have introduced my kids to meditation and mindfulness. I’m not very hard and fast about it. It’s not like they have to sit down and meditate every day. But we do talk about it. They see me doing it. I teach them by example and by being a role model. I have made a complete playlist of videos for kids’ meditation and mindfulness. In those videos, I talk in detail about how and why I teach my kids to meditate, what kinds of meditation they do. There is one video in which I talk about mindfulness games that you can play with your kids. I have also used recently used apps like Calm and Headspace. They have short two-minute or five-minute meditations for kids. Sometimes we sit down and play one of those guided meditations and meditate together.

Teaching them to process their feelings and emotions. Processing your feelings and emotions is crucial for your mental health – as a kid and as an adult. Unprocessed emotions, repressed emotions, can cause a lot of issues and can lead to mental health conditions like anxiety and depression. So it’s very important for me to help my kids understand the importance of processing their feelings and emotions. And what do I exactly mean by that? First of all, my kids need to be able to identify their feelings – especially the negative ones. If they’re feeling sad or angry, I want them to identify and to acknowledge that “I am feeling sad”. Secondly, I want them to know that it’s okay to feel sad. It’s okay to cry. I have a son and a daughter and I make sure that I give this message to my son as well. That it’s okay to cry. For generations, many societies have encouraged men to be “strong” and not admit they’re struggling. They condition boys from a very young age to not express emotion, because to express emotion is to be “weak”. This is something utterly wrong with society. Both boys and girls need to be able to express their emotions, process their emotions and to cry. There’s a reason why the suicide rates are so much higher in males than females. I think it’s because boys have been raised to be strong and macho and given the message that strong men don’t cry. But I think that is so crippling the to the mental health of men.

So I make it a make it a point to tell my kids it’s okay to cry. It’s okay to express your feelings. In fact, I encourage them to talk about their feelings when they’re sad and when they’re speaking, I listen to them with my full attention. Another thing I tell my kids is that all feelings are meant to be felt – fully felt – and processed.

So if they’re feeling sad, I don’t rush them to get happy. This is something that I have been guilty of doing in the past. When my kid was crying, I used to give them a candy or a toy to distract them because their crying bothered me more than it bothered them. As a result, I was in a rush to move them to a normal state or a happy state. But now I have learned to give them the time and space to process that sadness, get over it and learn to calm themselves down before they return to a normal state.

A fantastic movie that I love is called Inside Out. It’s an animated Disney movie. I love that movie because even I learned a lot of things from it about feelings and emotions. In that movie, they represent sadness, happiness and all the other feelings with characters. The main message that I got from this movie is that even sadness is important, even sadness has a role to play. Usually we tend to think that happiness is the thing to feel and happiness is the goal but sadness has a purpose! Sorrow has a role to play in our lives and it needs to be felt, it needs to be processed! I would highly recommend this movie for you to watch with your kids.

So as much as I try to be there to help my kids process their feelings and try to be there to listen to them, do I always listen to every single rant and complaint I get? No! My biggest pet peeve is the non-stop sibling rivalry that happens between my son and daughter. Pretty much every day, I get complaints like “How come she got that and I didn’t get that?” and “This is not fair and that is not fair!”. Also, they are constantly telling on each other. I don’t necessarily address every little thing that is brought to me by the kids. I will often say something like “Go figure it out yourself” or “Talk it out with her and settle it” or “I’m busy. I’m working right now. I cannot deal with this.”

But I make sure that for the bigger issues, when they are deeply emotionally hurt, I will stop what I’m doing to take care of them, and I make myself available to listen to them and help them process what they’re going through.

Giving them space: In my last point, I talked about being there for your kids to help him process their feelings, encouraging them to talk about their emotions. But that doesn’t mean that you always have to do it for them. Sometimes the best thing to do is to just give them space. For example, if my daughter is hurt because her toy broke or something, I will give her hug and say “I am so sorry your toy broke. Do you want to go in your bedroom and cry? You can cry if you want or take a few deep breaths… just take some time to calm yourself down and once you’re feeling okay, you can come back to me.” So sometimes leaving them alone and giving them space is crucial because as much as we want to support them, we also want to help them learn to help themselves and be independent and learn how to calm themselves down.

Reading Growth-Related Books With Kids: There are lots of growth related books and mental health related books out there. I find that reading these kinds of books with them is a great way to build their mental resilience. Kids connect with books and the characters in books. I like to sit with them and either read the book to them or have them read it to me – depending upon the level of the book. It’s a great bonding and learning opportunity!

These were the 7 ways in which I am trying to make my kids mentally strong. Do you have any additional tips you would like to share?