There are a number of things you and others can do to protect and promote your child’s mental health right through childhood and into adolescence.
Loving and caring properly for your baby right from the moment they are born is important for their mental health. It’s very important for children to have:
- a sense of belonging in all settings
- a significant person in their life
- the ability to cope
- a range of positive experiences.
10 things that children need most
- the basics – food, clothing, warmth, shelter and love
- to feel safe and secure
- cuddles and good touching
- lots of smiles
- praise and encouragement
- new experiences
- respect for their feelings
- your time and care.
School aged children spend close to half their waking hours at school, so it’s very important that their mental health is protected there. A good home contributes hugely to kids’ mental well-being; if that’s in place, the school can get on with teaching. But when there are issues at home, like alcohol and drug use, or abuse, children’s self-worth can be very poor.￼
If the school can’t help, the child will miss out on learning, and this will have long-term effects on his or her life. Good relationships with teachers are an important first step. If you are a parent or caregiver, make sure you tell teachers what’s happening in your kids’ lives so they and the school are prepared to respond to their needs.
Tips for schools
- Schools must be safe emotionally, socially and physically.
- Staff and students must be encouraged to reach their full potential.
- Self worth for everyone should be fostered through policies, programmes and practices.
- Schools should model positive mental health.
- Effort as well as achievement should be acknowledged.
- All actions and communications should be respectful.
- Teachers should be caring and nurturing and foster warm relationships.
- Young people should be encouraged to seek help when they need it and have access to counseling services.
- Schools should promote resilience and positive thinking.
- Connectedness to others should be encouraged.
- Schools should support and refer students showing signs of mental health problems or who are at risk.
- There should be easy means of accessing immediate crisis support.
- Schools should involve students in working in partnership with teachers and parents.
Did you know?
A number of District Health Boards run free clinics, such as the Kari Centre in Auckland DHB, for kids with a mental health problem. Some also run clinics for kids with a parent who has a mental illness. Ask your GP or mental health team if this would be helpful for you.
Just listen – stressed kids' plea to parents NZ Herald
How to increase your self esteem Mind, UK
Resilience – don't let things get you down Child & Youth Health, Australia
Self esteem – feeling good about yourself Child & Youth Health, Australia
Managing your feelings Child & Youth Health, Australia
Helpful information and support for children Skylight, NZ
The 10 things kids need most NZ Child, Youth and Family