Mental Health and Wellness

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Norton Children’s Prevention & Wellness offers educational programming on mental health.

What Is Mental Health and Why Is It Important?

Mental health affects how we think, feel and act. Mental health includes our emotional, psychological and social well-being. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), being mentally healthy during childhood includes:

  • Reaching developmental and emotional milestones
  • Learning healthy social skills
  • Learning healthy coping mechanisms when challenges arise

Coping Skills for Kids by Age

No matter our age, we have reactions to stress — even infants show stress reactions. Knowing these stress reactions can help families build and reinforce age-appropriate coping skills for children.

Babies (Up to 1 Year)

Stress reaction signs:

  • Anxiety
  • Changes in sleep or eating patterns
  • Changes in emotions (acting clingy, withdrawn or angry)
  • Distrust

Coping skills:

  • Maintain a steady routine
  • Physical contact (hugging, rocking, etc.)
  • Quality time with caregivers
  • Singing to the child or playing music
  • Swaddling

Toddlers (Ages 1 to 3)

Stress reaction signs:

  • Regression (loss of learned skills, such as potty training)
  • Temper tantrums
  • Uncooperativeness
  • Verbal and physical protests

Coping skills:

  • Offer opportunities for your child to feel in control, such as bedtime rituals
  • Maintain a schedule or routine
  • Prioritize quality time with caregivers, such as reading books or going for walks together
  • Set boundaries and offer reasonable choices
  • Use words to describe feelings, for example, “I see that you are angry because …”
  • Encourage play

Preschool Age (Ages 3 to 5)

Stress reaction signs:

  • Regression (such as bed-wetting or thumb-sucking)
  • Anger
  • Acting out or behavior issues
  • Verbal and physical protests or aggression
  • Dependency on caregivers
  • Withdrawal
  • Changes in appetite (undereating and overeating)
  • Bowel or bladder incontinence
  • Nightmares
  • Speech difficulties or repetitive talking

Coping skills:

  • Set boundaries and offer reasonable choices
  • Offer opportunities for control, such as choosing their outfit for the day
  • Maintain a schedule or routine
  • Allow for expression through art, play and words
  • Label and encourage the child to use words to describe emotions
  • Reinforce positive behaviors
  • Allow for a physical outlet, such as playing outside, dancing, running, etc.
  • Listen to music and sing
  • Participate in breathing exercises, such as blowing bubbles or pretending to blow out birthday candles, etc.
  • Encourage play

School Age (Ages 5 to 12)

Stress reaction signs:

  • Regression (include examples as the other ages have)
  • Inability to complete tasks
  • Uncooperativeness
  • Withdrawal
  • Depression
  • Displaced anger and hostility
  • Frustration

Coping skills:

  • Set boundaries and offer reasonable choices
  • Offer opportunities for control
  • Maintain a schedule/routine with the child’s input into daily activities
  • Allow for expression through art, play and words
  • Encourage the child to verbalize emotions
  • Reinforce positive behaviors
  • Allow for a physical outlet, such as playing outside, dancing, running, yelling into a pillow, smashing water balloons
  • Allow the child to identify their own coping strategies
  • Encourage time with family and friends
  • Support the child in pursuing their interests, such as sports, music, art, etc.
  • Encourage play

Teens (Ages 13 to 18)

Stress reaction signs:

  • Uncooperativeness
  • Withdrawal
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Changes in relationships with family, friends, peers

Coping skills:

  • Encourage an open dialogue
  • Participate in stress-reducing exercises, such as deep breathing, guided imagery, meditation and yoga
  • Encourage contact with peers
  • Support the teen in pursuing their interests, such as sports, music, art, etc.
  • Allow for a physical outlet, such as stress balls, fidget toys, yoga, sports, etc.
  • Encourage the teen to explore their personal coping strategies

How to Support Your Child’s Mental Health

Families can help support a child’s mental health and safety by:

  • Teaching the child how to ask for help and identify who can help them
  • Helping the child learn to work through difficult feelings
  • Talking to your child’s pediatrician if the child shows signs of depression or anxiety. If you don’t have a pediatrician, find one near you.
  • Limiting use of TV, computer, phone and other devices to 2 hours or less
  • Use active parenting skills

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