Over the last 15 years teachers and professionals who work with children have noticed an alarming increase in the rate of mental illness in kids. According to Victoria Prooday who is a registered occupational therapist and psychotherapist, one in every five children has a mental health problem. Many children across the USA are struggling with severe depression which is leading to a huge increase in suicide rates for children even as young as 10-years-old.
Though it may be hard to admit, parents need to begin stepping up and realizing the part they play in allowing their children to fall into mental health struggles.
“It is scientifically proven that the brain has the capacity to rewire itself through the environment,” Victoria says on her website. “Unfortunately, with the environment and parenting styles that we are providing to our children, we are rewiring their brains in a wrong direction and contributing to their challenges in everyday life.”
This, of course, does not include the children who are born with disabilities. Most times these children will continue to struggle even when their parents are providing a balanced environment. Instead, Victoria aims to catch the attention of the parents who would be able to break their children free of mental health issues with some changes made in their parenting styles.
On her website Victoria lists out some very easy to understand and actionable bullet points for parents looking to help their children and alleviate the mental struggles that are happening. By slowly implementing these aspects of parenting into their children’s lives, Victoria believes that parents can easily begin the road to providing a more well-balanced childhood for their children.
#1: Set limits and remember that you are your child’s PARENT, not a friend. Offer kids the well-balanced lifestyle filled with what kids NEED, not just what they WANT. Don’t be afraid to say “no” to your kids if what they want is not what they need.
- Provide nutritious food and limit snacks;
- Spend one hour a day in green space: biking, hiking, fishing, watching birds/insects;
- Have a daily technology-free family dinner;
- Play one board game a day;
- Involve your child in one chore a day (folding laundry, tidying up toys, hanging clothes, unpacking groceries, setting the table, etc.); and
- Implement consistent sleep routine to ensure that your child gets lots of sleep in a technology-free bedroom.
#2: Teach responsibility and independence. Don’t over-protect them from small failures. It will train them for the skills needed to overcome greater life challenges.
- Don’t pack your child’s backpack, don’t carry her backpack, don’t bring to school his forgotten lunch box/agenda, and don’t peel a banana for a 5-year-old child. Teach them the skills rather than do it for them.
#3: Teach delayed gratification and provide opportunities for “boredom” as boredom is the time when creativity awakens.
- Don’t feel responsible for being your child’s entertainment crew;
- Do not use technology as a cure for boredom;
- Avoid using technology during meals, in cars, restaurants, malls. Use these moments as opportunities to train their brains to function under “boredom”; and
- Help them create a “boredom first aid kit” with activity ideas for “I am bored” times.
#4: Be emotionally available to connect with kids and teach them self-regulation and social skills.
- Turn off your phones until kids are in bed to avoid digital distraction;
- Become your child’s emotional coach. Teach them to recognize and deal with frustration and anger;
- Teach greeting, turn taking, sharing, empathy, table manners, conversation skills; and
- Connect emotionally – smile, hug, kiss, tickle, read, dance, jump, or crawl with your child.
Though it may seem daunting to change the habits that have been formed in your family, it is vital that these changes are made for the sake of your children’s lives. Use Victoria Prooday’s wisdom that she so thoughtfully shared and lean into the strength of the Lord because He makes all things possible!