With so many things competing for our attention these days, it is more important than ever to be intentional about nurturing your child’s wellbeing. Wellbeing consists of healthy physical, mental, cognitive, and social-emotional health and there are many ways to support it.
1. Limit Screen Time For Everyone
Electronic devices and the internet are a large source of competition for our time as well as children’s. It’s important to limit this time as too much screen time can inhibit healthy family communication and interactions and negatively impact relationships.
Action idea – Have a consistent time each day where everyone’s individual electronics are put away (including adults with their phones). During this time, go for a family bike ride, play a game, or take the time to just chat and connect.
2. Model What You Want To See
Kids learn best by watching others. If you express your feelings in a healthy way – for example using I feel statements such as “I don’t like it when you ______,” – they will learn to do this. Children, especially young children, often struggle to explain how they are feeling. As the caretaker, you are where they are going to learn how to handle tough situations. Even when you are feeling upset or angry, modeling healthy ways to express those feelings will help your children as they learn and grow. When you make a mistake with your child – like losing your temper – admit it and apologize. Modeling is the best teacher, without adding a lot of extra time or effort to your already busy plate.
Action idea – Try communicating your feelings of frustration, happiness, worry and excitement throughout the day, while also acknowledging your children’s feelings and see how it impacts behavior and communication in your home.
3. Learn the Basics of Child Development
Although every child is different, they all go through stages in life that help to explain their emotions and behavior. Behavior is communication. Whether it’s your 3-year-old who is having a meltdown because you gave them the wrong color plate, or your teenager who spends all day in their room and refuses to go outside, behavior is how we all, even adults, communicate with each other. Having basic knowledge about the different stages of development in children and even teaching your child about what their behaviors may be saying can help increase empathy and understanding of what is happening and why.
Action idea – Take a few minutes to learn about the different stages of psychological development. This may help mitigate the guessing game of your child’s behaviors in certain situations. I recommend starting with Erik Erickson’s Psychosocial Stages of Development or some of these helpful sites:
4. Find A Mutual Interest With Your Child
Is there something your child is passionate about that you also like (or could like)? Or do you have an interest that seems like it could be a good fit for your child? Giving children a variety of experiences is important for their wellbeing and doing something you both enjoy creates connection and improves your relationship – which is win for both of you!
Action idea – Go through this list with your child and each pick your top 10 things. See if you have any in common and give them a try!
5. Plan Regular Time Together
Maybe you haven’t identified a common interest with your child yet. Spending intentional time with a parent enhances the relationship, decreases attention seeking behaviors, and helps build social-emotional skills. This time can overlap with things that need to be done. It could be baking, cooking, shopping, working together on house projects, or walking the dog. You could accomplish chores while enhancing your child’s wellbeing.
Action idea – Schedule planned, daily, consistent time with your child – try reading a book together, coloring, just talking, or playing a game. Even 15 minutes of your undivided attention can make a huge difference.
This blog was contributed by Shawna Croaker, LCSW | Director of Community Based Services for Nexus-PATH.
Nexus Family Healing is a national nonprofit mental health organization that restores hope for thousands of children and families who come to us for outpatient/community mental health services, foster care and adoption, and residential treatment. For over 50 years, our network of agencies has used innovative, personalized approaches to heal trauma, break cycles of harm, and reshape futures. We believe every child is worth it — and every family matters. Learn more at nexusfamilyhealing.org.