5 Simple Ways You Can Strengthen Your Child's Mental Health

In today's increasingly stressful world, we parents strive to maintain our work-life balance and to protect our mental health. Especially in light of the past couple of years!

But what about our children's mental health?

As parents it is crucial that we learn how to manage our own mental health, but also how to strengthen our children's mental health for now and for the future.

With the onslaught of pressures faced by modern children, having ways to manage stress and keep their mental health robust is crucial to healthy development.

Read on for 5 simple ways you can strengthen your child's mental health and help them have a healthy future.

1. Practice Mindfulness

One way to cope with stress and maintain good mental health is through mindfulness.

Mindfulness is simply the state of being present and existing in this very moment.

We are all born this way, of course, but as we grow the pressure to look ahead or to do more than one thing at once takes over and we rarely exist in the right now.

Being mindful means letting go of the next thought and activity, ignoring our wandering mind and just being.

To achieve this state of mind is not easy, but spend time with your child each day completely involved in one thing.

You could take some time outside to sit still in nature, lie back in your garden and watch the clouds, or watch a bee buzzing from flower to flower.

Indoors, you could colour, do yoga, bake or cook together, do some process art without care for the outcome.

All of these are activities that achieve 'flow', the state of being truly mindful and present in the moment.

Here are two games you can play with your child to help you both be mindful right now:

Play 3 Things

Stop, be still and ask your child to notice 3 things they can see, 3 things they can hear, 3 things they can smell, and 3 things they can feel.

Focussing on what is right in front of us helps to centre the mind and brings us to the here and now.

You can also play this calming game with eyes closed and imagine you are in a different location, for example in a field or at the beach.

Take 10 Breaths

Consciously slowing down our breathing helps to slow and focus brain activity, having a calming effect on both mind and body.

Ask your child to lie down quietly and place both hands on their tummy, fingertips touching.

Take a series of 10 deep breaths right down into the lungs, and your fingertips should pull apart each time.

Start with less breaths for younger children or beginners, and place a cuddly toy on their tummy which they can watch rise and fall as they take their breaths.

Exhale each breath slowly before taking the next.

Draw your child's attention only to their breath, let everything else tune out.

Play the Silence Game

Most children love this game as it is a little bit competitive but also pushes their own limits.

In our busy, over-stimulating world, it can be hard to just be still and quiet, so that is the whole point of the game.

To play, ask children to sit or lie quietly on the floor with their eyes closed, then set a timer.

Tell the kids they must be silent with both their mouths and their bodies, for as long as the timer runs.

By practicing being calm and still, they will in time connect with a sense of inner calm and peace.

Read more about mindfulness:

2. Play Together

Play is fundamental to childhood and not just the early years.

The more and longer children play, the greater their opportunity to process emotions and events, develop skills and mental dexterity, and to use their vivd imagination.

When an adult enters their world of play the opportunitties for connection are myriad.

A child won't say to you "I had a bad day" or "I'm having a hard time", they will ask "Play with me?"

The more you can say yes, the better.

Play in their imaginary worlds, have special jokes or games you make up together, dance, do jigsaw puzzles or play board games together.

See these ideas for rainy day indoor play for some more fun activities.

In addition, you can set up opportunities for sensory play, and not just for younger children. 

Fidget toys may also help, particularly for anxious or neurodivergent kids.

The more time you spend playing with your child, the more connected they will feel to you and the more loved.

Outdoor play opportunities are also essential to kids physical and mental health.

Encourage them to play outside as much as possible by creating play spaces and opportunities ideal for outdoor fun.

This won't always be with you, but feel free to join in!

Other fun ways to play outdoors together include:

What you do isn't nearly as important as the fact that you are doing it together!

See more:

3. Listen, Really Listen

Start as early as possible, if not before, then start today, right now!

Actively make time every day to talk and listen to your child one-on-one.

The rules are simple: give them time, get down to their level, speak clearly, use language they understand, and then listen like your life depended on it.

Don't interrupt, try to keep your facial expressions neutral and give your child 100% attention.

Only speak when they have completely finished and then keep your tone and words neutral or positive.

The point is that whatever your child wants to tell you, however big or small, is hugely significant to them.

So start listening now to make sure they keep talking as they get bigger.

That way you don't miss out on the important things when they need you, because it's all important to them, and you made sure it was all important to you, too.

4. Draw Your Emotions

Sometimes kids have such big emotions that the words needed to express them are too powerful, too complex or just too plain scary.

In such instances, drawing the feelings out of the body by expressing them physically (stomping, dancing, jumping) can help.

But actual drawing can work well too.

Set the intention by explaining to your child that you are both going to release your emotions by drawing or painting ANYTHING on paper.

This could be a series of scribbles, slashes, lines, circles, patterns or a detailed picture or even a beautiful landscape , whatever they feel like.

The point of the exercise is to release any big emotions being experienced through the medium of art.

As you are drawing, invite your child to breathe deeply and see if they can connect the breath to their strokes.

You should observe what your child draws without any judgement whatsoever, and praise them for their courage in being able to let their feelings out.

Only talk about what they have drawn, and why, if your child starts the conversation or asks you to talk about it with them.

5. Special Time

Finally, introduce the practice of regular Special Time in your home.

During this time you are totally devoted to your child and what THEY want to do.

Let your child know ahead of time when Special Time will be happening, and that you are going to be doing whatever they want.

By giving the child ownership of this time and putting them in charge, you are giving them back some of the power they lose in other aspects of their day.

Decide on the length of time, ideally around 10-20 minutes a day, and let them plan what they would like to do.

Only offer assistance or guidance if asked!

During special time that child has your undivided attention (phone off!)

Set a timer and off you go.

Do whatever your child wants to do and be enthusiastic about whatever they choose to do, even if it wouldn't be your choice!

Direct all your love and warmth at your child and delight in what they want to do.

By shining your attention and love directly at your child during this time you make them feel fully accepted, loved and appreciated for who they are.

And, over time, by approaching special time with an air of excited interest and expectation, they will feel safe to show or tell you anything, knowing how strong your love is and how much you enjoy their company.

Follow the laughter too!

If something makes your child laugh, keep doing it so you and your love gets hardwired into their brain along with the happy feelings of laughing and having fun.

This golden time is so life enhancing for every aspect of your family life, Special Time really will make a huge difference to both of you.

And, just like the true listening mentioned above, the sooner you start, the better.

By really listening and relishing your child's company, as well as showing them absolute unconditional love, they will feel strong enough to come to you with any problems or questions as they grow into teenagehood and beyond.

Developing the skills to withstand the slings and arrows of life can be tough for kids.

Create a home filled with positivity, mindfulness, positive thinking and self care to help your child become a strong and resilient adult who knows their own worth and has the ability to slow down in life and be truly present.

These 5 simple ways are a great start to that and will help to strengthen your child's mental health and wellbeing.

Have fun!

This post contains product and service links for your convenience. By clicking on these links I may earn an affiliate commission at no additional cost to you. I only suggest resources and items I believe in and highly recommend. Find out more on our Disclosure page.