Friday, December 8, 2023

Ideas to Help Support Children’s Mental Health

WJCC Public School students with support from School Health Initiative Program enjoyed healthy exercise with friends and family at the Run the DOG 5K this past April.

The state of children’s mental health is a national emergency. To support community awareness of how to keep children healthy mentally and physically, the Williamsburg Health Foundation offers this short article with recommendations. These recommendations are from To learn more about children’s health visit

The Williamsburg Health Foundation acknowledges that not all families or all parents can follow these recommendations. For example, it’s impossible to set a regular sleep schedule if you are homeless and moving between different places every few nights. It’s hard to “be encouraging” of a child’s interest in a new activity or sport if you cannot afford to pay for their participation.

Do not let these suggestions cause greater stress or mental health challenges for you, parents. Instead, see if there may be one two things from the lists below that make sense for you and your family.

Ensure good sleep

While good sleep is important for everyone, getting the appropriate amount of sleep is particularly important for a child’s health. And yet, it’s estimated that almost half of children in the United States will have a sleep issue,

Poor sleep is associated with a variety of negative health effects in children. These can include:

  • behavioral problems
  • trouble paying attention or concentrating
  • mental health issues, such as anxiety or depression
  • lower immune system function
  • predisposition to health conditions, such as diabetes or obesity
  • increased risk of accidents or injury

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine has published guidelines that list the appropriate amount of sleep children ages 4 months to 18 years should receive per a 24-hour period:

  • 4 months to 12 months: 12 to 16 hours
  • 1 to 2 years: 11 to 14 hours
  • 3 to 5 years: 10 to 13 hours
  • 6 to 12 years: 9 to 12 hours
  • 13 to 18 years: 8 to 10 hours

You can follow the advice below to help promote a good sleep environment for your child:

  • Determine a bedtime and aim to stick to it as consistently as possible.
  • Develop a bedtime routine that’s relaxing and promotes sleep, such as reading to your child or playing soothing music.
  • Ensure that your child’s bedroom is dark, quiet, and kept at a comfortable temperature.
  • Make sure your child doesn’t do high-energy activities shortly before bed.
  • Don’t give your child foods or drinks that are high in sugar or caffeine in the evening.
  • Set curfews for when your child needs to stop using electronics such as TVs, video games, or computers.

Foster emotional well-being

Good mental health is just as crucial for children as it is for adults. Children with good mental health function well in home, school, and social environments.

Promoting mental health starting at a young age is very important. This is because many mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression, can begin in early childhood.

The strategies below are good starting points to help you foster good mental health in your child:

  • Talk about feelings. Don’t be afraid to talk about feelings with your child. This can help your child understand not only their feelings, but those of others as well. It can also foster open, honest conversations going forward.
  • Avoid negativity. Raising a child can sometimes be frustrating but try to avoid negative remarks. These can include things such as sarcastic comments, personal attacks, or threats.
  • Boost self-esteem. Be sure to praise your child when they reach a new milestone or experience an achievement in school or an extracurricular activity.
  • Consider goals. Aim to set realistic goals for your child. Setting goals that don’t match well with their abilities and desires can lead to feelings of inadequacy and lower self-confidence.
  • Be encouraging. Always encourage your child to do their best. Additionally, show support when your child expresses an interest in doing a new activity or learning a new thing.
  • Discipline consistently. It’s also necessary that your child learns the types of behaviors that aren’t OK. However, when you do discipline your child, make sure it’s both fair and consistent.
  • Find playmates. Finding and interacting with friends helps your child broaden their support network and develop their interpersonal skills.

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