Improving Children’s Mental Health through Healthy Encouragement

How often do you vocalize how proud you are of someone? It feels good to make people smile, but can you remember a time when you wanted to be encouraged? During these challenging times with natural disasters and more negative news, we could all use encouragement to help get us through. Imagine the difference we could make by trying to use mindful practices of being more encouraging of others and how much our communities would benefit from that.

Encouragement is really important for everyone, but especially for young children. Children grow up not truly knowing how to process emotions, and all they want from their parents is to feel safe and secure. It is good to start by acknowledging children’s questions and needs by offering support.

Below are some tips on how to encourage your children in the healthiest of ways:

  • Include them in conversation. There is so much turmoil happening in the world right now. Children just want to be involved. They see you and feel those tensions and might ask questions. It is better to have age-appropriate conversations about what is happening so they can feel better. Kids oftentimes carry inappropriate guilt, and this transparency will open a safe space for them to ask questions and let go of those feelings of guilt.
  • Offer reassurances. When tensions are not addressed there are a lot of questions present. Children have wild imaginations and will often fill in the blanks. “It is important to be present with children while reassuring them that it is okay to have big feelings,” says Kimberly Young, Healthy Start Program Manager at Centerstone.
  • Give them praise. Praise helps to boost morale and confidence in children. Hearing the words “I am proud of you” makes any person feel better, but try going a step further by being more specific. Tell a child, “I am really proud of you for getting your schoolwork done” or something specific that focuses on their accomplishments.
  • Engage them in their strengths. Kids start to gain confidence when they have something they are good at. Focus on their strengths. Give them projects to do. “You’re a really great reader. Can you help us out? Would you be willing to read this book to the other kids?” When you engage kids with their strengths it really makes them feel like they have something valuable to offer.
  • Reward when appropriate. Rewards are a beneficial tool of encouragement and are a great way to boost self-esteem. “Using incentives can encourage healthy child development when an incentive plan is agreed upon between the parent and child so the child knows they can earn positive rewards based on their choices. Parents do not have to spend a lot of money on incentives as children are often happy to be rewarded with quality time spent with parents or inexpensive items, such as stickers,” says Paul Coggins, Regional Intervention Coordinator at Centerstone.

Encouragement can go a long way in boosting a child’s mental health and well-being. Children who feel encouraged and confident will likely perform better at school, participate in clubs or sports, have better relationships with family and peers and be healthier overall. “These Positive Childhood Experiences (PCEs) are associated with lower rates of children’s mental health issues. PCEs can reduce the adverse effects of toxic stress and other adverse childhood experiences to support children’s growth and development into healthy, resilient adults,” says April Scott, Infant and Early Childhood Program Manager for Centerstone.

If you or your children are struggling during these times, contact Centerstone for your mental health needs. Call 1-877-HOPE123 for more information.

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