We know good mental health is as important as good physical health - but how do we help our kids achieve it? With R U OK? Day happening this month, Sydney Local Health District’s mental health expert Dr Jean Starling shares her tips for maintaining healthy minds for the whole family.
It all starts with looking after yourself, “It’s about getting enough sleep, doing regular exercise and making time to do things you enjoy.”
For mums and dads, Dr Starling says that means the occasional break from the kids to spend time with your partner or friends.
Good relationships are essential for good mental health, and this is where you can lead by example as a parent. “Try to treat everybody in your life with kindness and respect because it makes people feel much better about themselves.”
Dr Starling says the best thing you can do for the mental health of your children is spend time with them. “Doing things like talking in the car and completing simple tasks together so you know what’s happening in their lives”. Having a close relationship with your children makes it easier to notice if something is wrong, because you’re more likely to see a change in them and they’re more likely to be comfortable talking to you about it.
Importantly, Dr Starling says good relationships are built with children during their younger years and can be much harder to achieve if you wait until they are teenagers.
While everyone is different, there are some telltale signs when something is wrong with a child. These can include being worried about going to school, coming home upset, appearing anxious or becoming easily annoyed. Encourage your child to talk about their worries, but if you feel like you’re not getting through, this can be a time to seek professional advice.
If you are worried about your child’s mental wellbeing, please call the Child Health Information Link on 9562 5400.