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What Every Parent Needs to Know About Their Kid’s Mental Health

Did you know that early childhood is when we have the greatest impact on helping our children to reach their full potential?

From birth to age three, your child’s brain is developing at its fastest rate. During this time, his brain is building its foundation at a pace of 700 new neural connections every minute! The strength of the foundation depends on the environment your child grows up in. A strong foundation leads to healthy development, both physically and mentally.

What helps children thrive?

1) Taking time to work on building a strong, loving relationship during everyday interactions. Your child’s first and most important relationship is with you. You already do many things to help build a healthy relationship with your child and make them feel loved. You build your relationship with your baby each time you respond to his cries by picking him up, talking to him and calmly trying to figure out what he is telling you. Even toddlers still need you to try to figure out what they are communicating or need help with. Each time you respond positively to your child, she learns about trust and security – the heart of loving relationships.

2) Having a safe environment, free from dangers, conflict and abuse, where your child can explore and learn.

For optimal mental health, your child needs to feel safe to explore but know he can return to you when he needs reassurance and comfort.

3) Teaching your children how to recognize, talk about and cope with their emotions. Accept and name feelings: “You seem sad. Can you tell me about it?” Be with them in that emotion. For example, “When I feel upset I listen to music because it helps me feel better. Do you want me to put on some music?”

4) Healthy coping strategies Even children experience stress. Healthy coping strategies may not eliminate stressors but can help us thrive despite them. Be a role model of coping strategies to help your child. Take deep breaths when you’re upset. Do relaxing activities together like reading, colouring or yoga.

5) Including physical activity, healthy eating and adequate sleep into your family’s daily routine.

6)Having a support circle. Support may come from family, friends or a community organization, such as a faith-based group. Talk to your healthcare provider. They can offer comfort and connect you to other supports. Visit www.healthunit.com/early-child-development-socialemotional for more information, including supports in London and Middlesex County. #LittleMindsMatter

Sarah Ingram, RN, Public Health Nurse Middlesex-London Health Unit


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