Raising a child is an awesome and rewarding responsibility. There's definitely a steep learning curve with parenting and things are always changing. While children will keep you on your toes, there are certain things you’ve got to take into consideration when you’re taking care of a little one. It's important to take note of your toddler's mental health. It's just as important as their physical health. You don't want to ignore signs of a mental disorder or illness and chalk it up to being a child. If your child is struggling with their mental health, it's up to you as a parent to know what's going on. Start looking into these four areas in order to positively impact your toddler's mental health.
1. Behavioral Patterns
It's not uncommon for toddlers to have temper tantrums. Do your best to parent them through those years where tantrums seem to be prevalent. Understand that there's a level of tenacity and rebellion behind these tantrums to see how far they can push you. However, if you notice that their behavioral patterns lean toward the extreme, it may be time to take a look at a deeper root cause. There are times when toddlers are showing signs of mental illness and need to be monitored. If you need help, consider getting a counselor to walk you through what you should do.
2. Healthy Environment
Children thrive in environments that are overflowing with love and care. Children need lots of attention and love it when they know you adore them. Make sure that the home is a happy and healthy place for their development. If there's a lot of fighting, domestic violence or neglect, this can dramatically damage a child's mental development and lead to mental health issues. Try to keep your children in an environment that's healthy, normal and consistent.
3. Extra-curricular Activities
Many children love the idea of exploring different activities. They love learning new ways to have fun. Allow your child to get the opportunity to have fun and be in different environments with other children through extracurricular activities. Extracurricular activities like dance, tumbling, and karate are excellent forms of exercise. If everyone in your family is a champion swimmer, let your child explore their inner fish and sign them up for mommy and me swim classes. Get your toddler to explore their artistic side by signing up for arts and craft classes. Many public libraries have sections dedicated to toddler development. Storytime and play dates with groups of children are usually common practices at many public libraries.
4. Emotional Management
If your toddler is dealing with mental angst or an illness of some sort, there's a level of control they just don't have. However, there is a level that you can control. Try your best to help them get through a rough spot by managing their emotions. Sometimes, practices like counting from one to ten or coloring can help toddlers calm down. Sometimes, it may be hard for toddlers to fully communicate how they're truly feeling. When this happens, try not to get flustered. It's best to remain calm and be patient with them. This type of situation is only temporary so you will get through it. Just remember that it's your job as the parent to remain on proactive instead of reactive.
When a person doesn't have control over their mind, their entire life suffers. Mental illness is nothing to play with. It starts when a child is young and in many cases, it doesn't fully manifest itself until the late teens or the early twenties. Don't become paranoid, but remain aware of your child's mental health as they progress. A healthy mind should remain a top priority.
Hannah Whittenly is a freelance writer and mother of two from Sacramento, CA. She enjoys kayaking and reading books by the lake. For mommy and me swim classes, Hannah recommends the Swim Jim.
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