Children’s Health Awareness Month

The importance of family time on kids’ mental health.

We’ve recently observed and brought awareness to men’s and women’s health, but this month we’re also focusing on raising awareness of children’s health issues. Specifically, on the positive effects of family time on a child’s mental health and adjustment to life.

We’ve published previous posts reflecting on the culture of busy that has sprung up in America over the past decade—the idea that doing too much equates to being productive—and it looks like adults might be pushing that onto kids as well. Every parent wants to raise a well-adjusted, multi-talented child. However, this doesn’t mean that a child’s day must be filled to the brim with activities, only to arrive home with barely enough time for homework or a social life.  

Raising a successful child isn’t a matter of how many extracurricular activities they run through every week. The Child Development Institute indicates it’s more closely related to personalized attention from parents, resulting in:

1.  Feelings of love and importance for the child.

2.  Opportunities for the child to model positive parental behavior.

3.  Opportunities for the parent to see their child’s strengths and weaknesses, thereby learning how to guide them.

4.  Allowing both parent and child to share thoughts, feelings and listen to each other.

Naturally, allowing these interactions to happen strengthens family bonds as well. An important concept within the development of a child (and through teenage years) is “mattering”. A child wants (and needs) to feel like they matter--that they’re important and worth something, and have impact in their world. A study from Brown University recently found that adolescents who believe they matter to their families are far less likely to threaten or engage in violence against them.

This might sound like something obvious, but the three factors on which mattering is founded—awareness, importance, and reliance—all come back to the connections within family mental health.  Are you aware of me? Am I important to you? Can I rely on you? are the unconscious questions swirling in a child’s head. If the answers veer toward the negative, the likelihood of lashing out increases.

Multiple studies have revealed the mental imbalances that can arise from deficient parenting. Luckily, ideas for promoting healthy, happy children are easy to come by. The most basic one is simply spending time with your child. Here are some specific ways to encourage bonds to grow:

Eat family meals together. Do this in a way that increases interaction, whether that means cooking together, having specific chores related to the meal, or asking focused questions about their day, specifically how the child felt or reacted--not just surface level topics.

Help with homework. Make this a conflict-free activity, and use school work as a simple means to an end.

Do something active. Tossing a baseball around, bike rides, or some other way to get both of you moving is ideal to promote healthy lifestyles and habits.

Share hobbies. Bonding over a shared interest can reveal new insights not only into each other, but into the hobby itself, creating a doubly enriching environment.

Read together. For an older child, ask what book they are reading and start a conversation or discussion about the book.

Family movie nights. Try watching movies or TV together to build a shared repository for preferences.

The key to all of this is pretty simple: let your kids know that they matter.  That doesn’t mean spoiling them with trips, video games, toys, and material things--it’s simply spending time with them.

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