By Jessi Robertson
In early childhood, children depend on their parents and caregivers to learn how to express and manage their emotions in healthy ways. Feeling connected, loved, and cared for creates security and helps children be able to build healthy relationships in the future. We call this attachment.
Here are some ways to build healthy attachment for infants:
- Make eye contact, sing, read and talk to your baby.
- Respond when he or she cries and give lots of love and attention to his or her needs.
- Take care of yourself. If stress or anything is affecting your own emotions, talk to someone to get support.
As your child becomes a toddler, he or she is beginning to walk, talk and even throw tantrums. This is normal but can feel very challenging for parents.
Some ways to help your toddler build resilience, self-esteem and confidence are:
- Hugging your children and telling them you love them. This is one of the most basic ways to build self-esteem and help them feel secure.
- Provide a time for physical activity, play and family time.
- If you have concerns about your child’s development or behavior, talk to your pediatrician.
Some mental health issues that might arise as children begin their school years include difficulty with attention, being flexible with changes in their environment or schedule, stress or anxiety and even learning challenges.
Here’s what you can do as a parent:
- Acknowledge their feelings. It is OK to have feelings. Help them learn to name the feeling. (Emojis are a great way to let kids visually identify them.)
- Help them find a soothing activity to do to calm down, like drawing, going for a walk or taking a few deep breaths.
- Talk to your child’s pediatrician if you have questions about attention, mood or other concerns.
It is normal for kids ages 8-10 to sometimes have low moods, poor motivation or trouble sleeping.
Some ways that you can help your child through this include:
- Talking to your child about how they are feeling. Let them know it’s OK to have feelings and to talk to someone about them. If they aren’t comfortable talking to you, help them find another trusted adult that they can confide in (grandparent, school counselor or therapist).
- Making sure that your child is getting plenty of sleep. Kids this age need at least 10-11 hours. Sleep is critical to healthy physical and mental development in children and can greatly impact their mood.
- Get outside! Outdoor play and activities can help boost mood and decrease stress levels.
Adolescents are notorious for having highs and lows. This is all part of normal hormonal, physical and emotional development. But stress causes many teens to feel depressed or sad and lack interest, motivation or energy. There’s constant pressure on teens to do everything — and do it well.
Here’s how they can find some balance:
- Getting plenty of sleep (8-10 hours a night).
- Focusing on strengths. Think of things they do well and find ways to do more of those things.
- Doing things that make them happy. Finding at least one or two things that boost their mood can make a big difference, like listening to music, calling a friend, playing a sport or doing something creative.
- Talking to someone. It can be hard to manage stress alone. Sometimes talking to someone else can provide perspective and new ideas to problem-solve.
Robertson, MS, LMFT, is owner and clinical director of Bloom Wellness. Reach her at (228) 382-3107.