How To Make An Impact On Our Kids’ Mental Health

Growing Readers: Learning to Love Reading and Writing Column 28

This editorial article was written by Lizzie Mussoline, M. Ed.
Horror Stories and Halloween Reads for Teens
The Children’s Book Review

The global pandemic has impacted our children in many ways—and there may be unexpected repercussions that we will have to deal with in the future. However, there are many small things we can do that we hope will have a significant and positive impact on our children’s mental, social and emotional wellbeing.

Acknowledge Feelings—ALL of them 

One of the best things we can do for our kids is to acknowledge all of their feelings—positive, negative, and everything in between. This doesn’t mean you should spend an inordinate amount of time talking about feelings, but a simple statement such as, “I hear you, I see you, let me try to understand better” can go a very long way toward helping children feel heard and not dismissed.

Statements such as “It’s okay to feel disappointed” or “We build resilience through the discomfort” can help set our children up for success by showing them how to get through tough times. We do them a disservice when we try to protect them from experiencing emotions that are perceived as unfavorable. Wrap up your discussions by saying something along the lines of “Thank you for talking to me about your feelings. Please know that you can always talk to me about all your feelings. I will always be here to listen to you.”  

Talk about Self-Care 

Although you and your family are a team, you are also individuals with different emotional needs. We talk a lot about how we are a team, but that everyone must have time for their mental health—things that fill our buckets and help strengthen us individually to be better family members or teammates. We also talk about how parents need their own time to fill their buckets, and that self-care looks different for everyone. 

Self-care can mean any number of things—such as quiet alone time, reading, drawing, creating, building, exercising, getting fresh air, journaling, meditating and mindfulness, listening to music, playing an instrument, dancing, working on a Rubik’s Cube, playing a board game, talking with a good friend, and the list goes on and on.  

Make it a point to know what helps fill everyone’s buckets. For example, afterschool might be a tough time for your family—everyone is tired and grumpy after a long day. This would be an excellent time for self-care. Help everyone know what makes them feel calm, relaxed, and re-energized. Make it a habit to praise one another when showing mindfulness and acknowledging the need for some self-care time. Teaching our children to recognize their emotional needs and strategies to help them feel emotionally healthy is a tool they can use their entire lives. What a gift! 

Read Books Together

The Children’s Book Review has excellent book recommendations to help support mental health in your families! Keep in mind that we think picture books are for all ages: 

Try this booklist: 5 Books For Raising Happy, Calm, and Resilient Kids

Ruby Finds a Worry by Tom Percival  

B is for Breathe by Dr. Melissa Munro Boyd 

Listening with My Heart: A Story of Kindness and Self Compassion by Gabi Garcia 

What to do When You Worry Too Much: A Kid’s Guide to Overcoming Anxiety by Dawn Huebner (A workbook full of activities and practical strategies to implement at home right away; also gives parents the words and language to use when your child expresses their anxious thoughts.)

Book art
Breathe with Me: Using Breath to Feel Strong, Calm, and Happy (Sounds True, 2019), written by Mariam Gates and illustrated by Sarah Jane Hinder

Encourage Mindfulness 

Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids by Dr. Laura Markham helps introduce parents and kids to the practice of mindfulness and meditation.

My Magic Breath by Alison Taylor is an excellent introduction to mindfulness, and there are plenty of great guided meditation resources out there, too. We also love the Stop, Breathe & Think Kids app.

All of these resources can be enjoyed together as a family.  Extend any mindfulness activities with journaling, too. 

My Magic Breath Illustration
My Magic Breath: Finding Calm Through Mindful Breathing (HarperCollins, 2018), written by Alison Taylor and illustrated by Michelle Polizzi.

Talk to a Professional

There are many mental health professionals available that you and your children can talk to. Whether it is the school counselor or a private therapist, teach your children that therapists or “Feelings Doctors” are an incredible tool they can add to their mental health wellness toolkit! Colorado has launched the “I Matter” campaign in response to the challenges kids are currently experiencing due to the pandemic. Children 18 years and younger are eligible for three free mental health counseling sessions with a licensed behavioral health clinician via telehealth. Read more about this fantastic initiative here.

Thank you for reading the Growing Readers: Learning to Love Reading and Writing column. Bookmark this Growing Readers Column link or subscribe to our e-newsletter so you do not miss out on the monthly reading tips. Fun Ways to Boost Your Sports Fanatics’ Literacy Skills was written by Lizzie Mussoline, M. Ed.—follow her on Instagram: @wildflower_learning_denver.

How You Support The Children’s Book Review

We may receive a small commission from purchases made via the links on this page. If you discover a book or product of interest on this page and use the links provided to make a purchase, you will help support our mission to ‘Grow Readers.’ Your support means we can keep delivering quality content that’s available to all. Thank you!

November 14, 2021 at 12:50PM Lizzie Mussoline, M. Ed.