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Expert Shares Advice for Raising Mentally Strong Children

Expert Shares Advice for Raising Mentally Strong Children

Young Spanish family together on sofa in family home

At a time when many people are struggling with mental health, it’s important to know that kids aren’t immune. Thirteen percent of all youths ages 8 to 15 have a diagnosable mental disorder. About 8 percent have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, colloquially ADHD, almost 4 percent have anxiety or mood disorders and nearly 3 percent suffer from depression. These conditions limit our children’s ability to succeed in school, to thrive emotionally and to live happy lives. The way we, as parents, communicate with children can help them nurture their emotional health in a positive manner.

Proactively ask your child how he or she is doing. If you notice he or she is either way up or way down, ask specifically about emotions, with questions such as “How are you doing emotionally?” It’s important your child sees that you know he or she has unique and personal emotions, that you care about him or her and that he or she can let you know about those emotions. Don’t be critical, don’t be negative and do be nonjudgmental.

Intentionally plan time to spend with your children – uninterrupted time devoted to them and them only. Remember, the greatest gift you can give your child is your time and undivided attention – and it’s less expensive and more meaningful than a Nintendo Switch.

Ask your children routinely what makes them smile or laugh. Ask what makes them grateful. Continually point out the good in life and the things to be thankful for – the good things that make it easier to deal with the bad.

Finally, be sure your children know they can bring any problems to you. Let them know that they can bring hard and challenging issues to you and that you can help them make the right choices themselves, without telling them what to do. Remember, children learn behavior by observing that of their parents, so if you are open and honest, they will be so with you, too. Laying the groundwork for this communication with your preschooler and school-aged child will make dealing with adolescence that much easier. 

For more information, visit mercy.net/laduenews.

Dr. Joseph Kahn is president of Mercy Kids (mercykids.org), an expansive network of pediatric care dedicated to meeting the needs of every child, every day.

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Dr. Joseph Kahn is president of Mercy Kids (mercykids.org), an expansive network of pediatric care dedicated to meeting the needs of every child, every day.

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