No need to wait: Why promoting mental health and wellness is a good strategy.

Many parents worry about their children: Are they developing appropriately? Are there things I should be looking out for? For many, the daily challenges their children face are part of normal development; however, for some, concerns may reflect the need for more focused attention, with the need to consult with a mental health professional a possibility (please see previous post about knowing when it may be time to seek help).

The current literature indicates that parents, schools, and communities do not have to wait until individuals develop clinically significant problems to focus on mental well-being. Rather, findings suggest that the promotion of social emotional well-being is as important as physical health. Much of the focus is on Social Emotional Learning (SEL). SEL refers to a process where individuals learn to understand and manage their emotions, show empathy for others, maintain and develop positive relationships, and make responsible decisions. The focus on SEL can help facilitate social and emotional skill development and improve academic functioning.

Findings also suggest that these strategies should be embedded across environments, with communication occurring across all segments of a system (e.g. school, community and home).

Some basic things that caregivers and teachers can do include:

-Establishing caring and unconditional relationships that promote autonomy and foster a sense of safety.

-Acceptance: both for the positive and negative experiences. Therefore, teaching a child that it is fine to feel sad, angry, down. This allows them to see that there is no shame in experiencing these emotions and that despite these feelings, the relationship noted above is maintained.

-Modeling. We serve to model appropriate reactions, coping skills, and problem-solving strategies when faced with difficult scenarios. This can include daily exercise, an emphasize on clean eating, regular engagement in relaxation strategies, etc.

-A sense of community. A child should know who they can turn to in times of stress or difficulty. This can be a caregiver or a caring adult in school or the community.

The following resources provide additional information for interested readers:

https://www.caringforkids.cps.ca/handouts/mental_health

http://ir.lib.uwo.ca/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1005&context=eei