Mental health is so incredibly important to us all. However, we often find ourselves neglecting it in pursuit of other responsibilities. As an adult, while circumstances can dictate little control over our time, it is infinitely much more difficult for children. They are at the mercy of parents, primary caregivers, education, and authorities, all while having a significantly underdeveloped brain which contributes to difficulty regulating emotions and rationalizing, to name a few!
A Gratitude Jar
A gratitude jar is something that both children and adults can benefit from. There are so many great things that happen to us in our day-to-day life that can be completely bypassed because of the way we are encouraged to always seek improvement of ourselves or value from others. Children have much, much less autonomy over their lives than adults do, which is just another reason why it can be crucial to help children see the good they experience every day. For example, they might dislike math, but they might have a great day in English. They might have lost a football match, but they got their favorite tea for dinner! Perhaps they have had a day where they are really poorly, but they got to watch the birds outside.
This activity is not designed to minimize their sadness or discomfort, which is also just as valid, but it can shape their minds to focus on the small and big things they are grateful for, which is a mindset they can take into adulthood.
You will need:
- A Jar
- Pens and pencil
A gratitude jar works by writing down the things you are grateful for in the day and then putting it in the jar. They can look at them whenever they like.
If you are both feeling particularly creative, you can decorate the jar too and make it personalized.
Encourage Them to Express Themselves
Expression is vital to our mental health, and children need to be given the opportunity to show this in any healthy and controlled way that will resonate with them. For example, this could be done through dance, making music, writing, creating a piece of art, or simply allowing them a safe space where they can discuss how they feel and what they are thinking. They need to know it is a non-judgment zone for it to be helpful. Otherwise, they may be fearful of engaging. If you find this idea daunting, you could enlist professional help but in a casual and easy way, such as using digital mental health solutions for children. This can give you and your children science-backed virtual therapy that can keep everyone engaged, creating a united front as a family.
Setting intentions can be very useful when teaching your children to learn more about themselves. This could include their likes and dislikes or what they might like to achieve in their day. This can help them understand the autonomy they do have over their lives and exercise that in a safe and reasonable way and is a learning opportunity for how they are able to manage the time they have with the experiences they are given. It does not have to be any serious, it could just be something as simple as an intention to have a happy or kind day.
Encourage Physical Exercise
Most children are pretty good at getting the exercise they need if they enjoy playing outside, but if you find that they are more interested in activities that require a lot of sitting down, you might want to give them a gentle nudge to get moving around each day. Put on some music and have a dance together or go for a walk and spot how many birds you can see- this makes exercise easy and fun, and they can still reap the benefits.
Writing exercises can be very beneficial to improving our mental health. Whether it is just ‘word dumping’ everything that is in our mind to get it out, writing the things we like about ourselves or what we are proud of, writing about the things we have achieved, or perhaps even just practicing with one of the many writing worksheets 5th grade available online. Children can benefit from doing any of these, and you can make it more engaging for them in different ways. For example, why not ask them to draw themselves as a superhero and write about their magic powers?