First 5 LA: Five Ways to Cultivate Mental Wellness

January marks Mental Wellness Month. Both mental illness and mental wellness are influenced by the quality of care a child receives early in life. Cultivating your child’s self-esteem, confidence and a healthy sense of purpose is important for their development and long-term well-being. Here are some tips for cultivating wellness from the start:

Be Present. Your attentiveness to your child’s needs – to start, feeding, holding, changing and comforting – helps them feel wanted and safe. Being attuned to what your child needs is part of the bonding process and helps them feel attached to you and secure in your later relationship. Being “present” is both a physical and emotional concept. Remember that engaging your child by talking, reading and singing at a young age can lay the foundation for healthy self-esteem in the future.

Be Consistent. When children experience early consistency with parents, they feel safe and are able to explore, learn and develop healthy relationships with others. From behavior expectations and consequences to familiar meals and bedtime routines, structure and predictability help children develop a sense of belonging and mastery.

Be Responsive. Responding to your child’s questions, offering encouragement and letting them know that you appreciate their special qualities helps them feel valued. They look to you for guidance on how to feel about themselves. When you reflect in a positive way, it helps build self-confidence.

Be Kind. While kindness is a virtue we want to instill in our children, we may often find that we are not as kind to ourselves. In order to help a child develop mental wellness, it is important to recognize – and even celebrate – our efforts as parents. What are some ways you are working hard to cultivate wellness in your children? What do you like about yourself? Affirming your own good qualities is a way of being kind to yourself and can benefit both you and your child.

Be Conscious. Your child is like a little sponge absorbing all the care, thought and time that you put into parenting. You are his or her first teacher and most important role model in life. Being conscious of your own upbringing and aware of the choices you now have as a parent can improve your mental wellness and positively impact the ways you choose to interact with your child.

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