Three Exercises to Raise Mentally Healthy Children

As mothers, there are things we can do to strengthen and prepare our children to be mentally strong and safe from the growing epidemic of mental illness and suicide among today’s youth. Incorporating these exercises in your child’s day will help them create a healthy belief system about themselves and empower them to be mentally healthy.

1. Positive Self Talk: 

I think my number one goal as a mother is to help my children have bulletproof self-confidence. For them to be so secure in who they are so that no one and nothing can tear them down. Our children internalize their experiences and create self-dialogue. Are they learning to hate themselves through comparisons, feelings of inadequacy, or others’ negative opinions? Or are they learning to love themselves with grace and acceptance? 

Parenting Invitation:

Begin your mornings with affirmations. I outlined a year of positive affirmations that I want my daughter to internalize and truly be able to believe about herself. We do three affirmations at a time for a whole month. Two of them I created, and one she has to fill in the blank: “I love ____ about myself.” It might look something like this:

– I am 100% lovable exactly how I am.

– I am special. 

– I love ___ about myself.

It might feel silly to them at first, but ingraining in them all the ways that they are special and worthy will be miraculous. It will create positive self-talk and a healthy relationship with themselves. 

2. Perfectionism: 

Perfectionism can be a destructive mindset and is becoming common in our modern world. Perfectionism builds over time as we create unrealistically high standards for ourselves, feed into the false realities of social media, feel the need to please others, view failure as unacceptable, or feel intense pressure to keep up or outshine others. This can lead to extreme feelings of worthlessness and failure if you feel you will never be good enough for yourself. 

Parenting Invitation: 

Let your children see you fail. I want my children to see me struggle. I want them to see me make mistakes. I want them to know that it is okay and normal. I want them to know that failure is not a bad thing; that it is how we learn and grow. It is necessary. I will openly tell my daughter, “I am sorry for losing my patience earlier. That is something I am working on. Will you forgive me?” Let them know that doing your best is enough. That they are enough

3. Thoughts Create Emotions:

The most empowering thing I have ever learned is that our thoughts create our emotions. Most of us might think that our emotions run the show and that other people can control them. But emotions are optional. If a kid at school tells me I am fat, I can choose to feel hurt, sad, and insecure; or I can choose to think, “That comment says more about him than me and I love my body,” and I can go on my merry way enjoying my day. People can only make you feel sad if you let them. That is a powerful lesson for our children. They don’t need to give other people power over their emotions. They can feel however they choose to feel. 

Most of us are completely unaware of the thoughts that come and go in our minds. We will suddenly feel a ping of sadness or guilt and have no idea why we are suddenly in a bad mood. But when we become mindful and curious about our emotions, we can trace it back to the source. 

For example, your kids are eating breakfast and suddenly you feel really upset. So you stop and get curious about what you are feeling and trace it back to the source. You realize your kids are eating a sugary cereal and you have thoughts of guilt that they aren’t eating a healthier breakfast and that you are a failure as a mom. If you change your thoughts—“Today is a special day, one day won’t hurt them and I do such a great job giving them healthy meals most of the time”—you can change your feelings. 

Parenting Invitation:

Talk through your child’s emotions with them. During dinner, take turns telling each other your “rose and thorn.” The rose is the best part of your day; the thorn is the worst part of your day. Then further discuss what emotions they felt from their rose and thorn, and the thoughts that caused those emotions. 

For example, their thorn might be that nobody played with them at recess. You then ask what emotion they felt when they thought this and they answer “sad.” You then ask what thoughts caused that emotion and they answer, “That nobody likes me.” Then you could ask them what an alternate thought might have been that would have lead to more positive feelings. This will help your child become more aware of their emotions and how to manage them. When we understand our emotions, we gain power and are less likely to feel controlled by them.

QUESTION: Do you see your child, or children, struggling with a negative self-image, a need for perfection or negative self-talk? Or experience challenges that might arise from these? Or just want to help your children avoid them?

CHALLENGE: Choose one of the above exercises and incorporate it into your daily family routine and see if it works for your family.

Edited by Sharon Brown and Nollie Haws
Image provided by the author