Children & Mental Health

Mental health affects the way people think, feel and act. Taking care of our mental health is just as important as having a healthy body. As a parent, you play an important role in your child’s mental health:

• You can promote good mental health by the things you say and do, and through the environment you create at home.

• You can also learn about the early signs of mental health problems and know where to go for help.

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How can I nurture my child’s mental health?

Help children build strong, caring relationships:

• It’s important for children and youth to have strong relationships with family and friends. Spend some time together each night around the dinner table.

• A significant person who is consistently present in a child’s life plays a crucial role in helping them develop resilience. This person—often a parent or other family member—is someone your child spends a lot of time with and knows they can turn to when they need help.

• Show your children how to solve problems.

Help children and youth develop self-esteem, so that they feel good about themselves:

• Show lots of love and acceptance.

• Praise them when they do well. Recognize their efforts as well as what they achieve.

• Ask questions about their activities and interests.

• Help them set realistic goals.

Create a safe, positive home environment:

• Be aware of your child’s media use, both the content and the amount of time spent on screens. This includes TV, movies, Internet and gaming devices. Be aware of who they might be interacting with on social media and online games.

• Be careful about discussing serious family issues—such as finances, marital problems or illness—around your children. Children can worry about these things.

• Provide time for physical activity, play and family activities.

• Be a role model by taking care of your own mental health: Talk about your feelings. Make time for things you enjoy.

How do I know if my child or youth has a mental health problem?

All children and youth are different. If you’re concerned your child may have a problem, look at whether there are changes in the way they think, feel or act. Mental health problems can also lead to physical changes. Ask yourself how your child is doing at home, at school and with friends.

Where do I go for help?

There are many ways to help your child achieve good mental health. Sharing your concerns with the doctor is one of them. Talk to your child’s doctor:

• if the behaviours described above last for a while, or if they interfere with your child’s ability to function;

• if you have concerns about your child’s emotional and mental health;

• about your child’s behavioural development and emotional health at each well-child visit.

If your child or teen talks about suicide or harming themselves, call your doctor or local mental health crisis line right away. Learn more about children and mental health.

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