Keeping up good levels of emotional health and wellbeing
There are a range of things you can do to make sure your child has a good level of health and wellbeing.
Food and drink
A healthy balanced diet is important in maintaining good mental health. Poor diet is thought to contribute to low mood, anxiety, and behavioural problems.
To encourage your child to eat better, you could:
- provide meals that include all of the main food groups
- encourage regular eating habits, eg three meals and at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day
- make sure healthy snacks and fruit are readily available
- limit the amount of cakes, biscuits, soft drinks and energy drinks
The eatwell plate on NHS website
Taking some time out to relax is an important way of helping minds and bodies switch off from daily pressures.
To help your child to relax, you could:
- encourage them to take the time to pause and take a break
- encourage them to take notice of the world around them
- inspire creativity and imagination through art, writing and reading
- encourage taking warm baths before bed
Not enough sleep can cause irritability, stress, anxiety and bad moods. A healthy sleeping pattern can enhance mood and promote feelings of energy and wellbeing.
Be aware that sleep patterns of teenagers means they might not be tired and ready for sleep until late at night.
To encourage your child to sleep better, you could:
- talk to your teenager about their worries and concerns, as this might help them get to sleep easier
- try to make rooms as dark, cool, quiet and comfortable as possible
- make sure your child has a comfortable bed and mattress, and thick, dark curtains to block out any light
- promote the benefits of a good sleep, eg better memory, performance and general well-being
- try to make children more active throughout the day
- encourage a routine; doing the same things in the same order before bed can help
- make sure they're switched off from gaming, social networking and / or TV before bed
- make sure monitors, screens and devices are switched off before bed, as light from devices can interfere with sleep
- discourage them from taking naps, as this could have a knock on effect later on at night
Exercise and physical activity
Exercise and physical activity is known to greatly improve mental wellbeing and mood, as it releases serotonin and endorphins which has links to reductions in anxiety and stress.
To encourage your child to be physically active, you could:
- emphasise the importance of physical activity and its benefits
- be a positive role model. Parents who are physically active themselves have children that are also physically active
- encourage your child to take part in sports, either by watching them play or compete, or by offering lifts to sports events
- limit time spent watching television or playing computer games
- encourage your child to do things they enjoy, which might not be organised or team sports
- share stories about how you were active when you were a teenager, and suggest you try them as a family
A routine will help your child feel more in control and bring structure into their life. Long days with nothing to do can have a negative impact on mental health.
To encourage a routine for your child, you could:
- create more structure and opportunities for positive interactions
- encourage down time but make sure it isn’t happening too often
- encourage them to have a plan for eating, sleeping, socialising, exercising and relaxing
Family and friendship
Being close to and feeling valued by others is a fundamental human need. Remind your child that friends and family will be there for them and can help talk over their problems.
To encourage healthy relationships, you could:
- encourage them to spend time with friends and family
- remind them it's important to spend time with people who make them feel good about themselves
- encourage them to phone, Skype, FaceTime or meet a friend, as well as texting or using social media
- make your children's friends feel welcome
- take an interest in their activities
Social media and the internet
Social media and the internet are useful resources that can help young people connect with others, be creative, and learn new things. However, they do have a negative side that parents should be aware of.
To encourage positive use of social media and the internet, you could:
- think about how you guide your family in the real world and do the same in the digital world
- set boundaries and rules for your child from a young age
- make digital issues part of everyday conversation; don't shy away from difficult subjects like responsible online behaviour, bullying and pornography
- encourage your child to catch up with friends face-to-face, and to not overly rely on social media
Internet and online safety
Low self-esteem can be damaging on general mood, health and well-being.
To address low self-esteem, you could:
- encourage your child to focus on their strengths and positive thinking
- support them to recognise the skills that they have
- encourage them not to dwell on the things they might not be so good at
- set small, realistic goals when doing something new, and try and reach them