Where do your priorities lie?
What do you do for your child daily to ensure they are successful as an adult? Perhaps you enroll them in a good school, providing them with a good education that will one day land them a lucrative job. Or you put them in sports, hoping they will one day earn a scholarship. Some parents do everything they can to assure their kids are eating healthily to give them a headstart in living a vigorous life free from disease.
Just like the saying, “You are what you eat.” The same can be said for parenting. Your kids will be influenced for the rest of their lives by what you do, provide, and expect from them daily.
And while none of the above aspirations are wrong, why do we often neglect the incredible responsibility to nurture and pour into our child’s mental health daily? What about their spiritual life? Or their emotional life?
Too often, parents get caught up in the daily grind, thinking their higher education, well-rounded meals, and social activities are what will make for a successful child. But what about their hearts? Their minds? Their souls? Your relationship with them?
We live in a fast-paced, high-expectation culture that is robbing our children and us of mental and emotional wealth, connecting with one another deeply.
When the family unit has disjointed priorities, it will negatively affect everyone. How?
When you decide to look at your phone instead of into your child’s eyes as they tell you about something cool they just experienced, your priorities are off. When you put your head in the sand as to what your kids are experiencing on social media, at school, and in church, your priorities are off. Your priorities are off when you do everything you can to ensure your child has a good education but simultaneously can’t converse with them for longer than 5 minutes a day.
I’m not saying this to make you feel like a terrible parent. I’m saying this because ALL of us have something to work on when it comes to priorities. We all have a part to play in our child’s well-being, mental health, and future existence, and it begins with YOU, the parent.
With the awareness we now have about mental health issues amongst youth today, parents ought to wake up and recognize what part they play.
Before you go seeking the best for your child when it comes to education, health, success, or social status, remember this. When your child is grown, do you think they will look back and wish they had a nicer car, better education, or a bigger home? Or do you think they will look back and remember whether or not you were approachable, accepted them no matter what, listened to them intently, and genuinely cared about their hearts?
As you reflect on that, remember that your daily interactions are where it all begins. What is the tone you wish to set for your family? Do they enjoy being home? Do they want to invite their friends over? Do they feel safe sharing their hearts with you or fear being punished? Are their big emotions met with gentleness or frustration? Again, this is not a guilt trip but rather a call for parents to do something in the wake of this mental health fiasco affecting our children’s minds and hearts.
With that being said, here are some tangible things you can do daily that will not only support your child’s mental health, but connect with them, nurture healthy relationships, and give them the tools they need to be mentally, spiritually, and emotionally healthy.
1. Give them the tools to make wise choices and solve problems
Have you heard the saying, “We are the sum of our choices?” Choices, both small and big, will impact us in monumental ways throughout our life. One different choice in your life could drastically change your future. That’s why your child must be confident in their choices. As parents, our well-intentioned direction and discipline can often lead our children to mistrust themselves and their choices. Disciplining with the mindset to control instead of guide, we cause our children to think their choices should be made to please us. Read more on this in How to NOT Raise a People Pleaser.
When we do this, we miss ample opportunities to teach our children how to think for themselves, reason, and make a choice based on what is right, or even for those of you who have faith in what God wants for their life. As parents, we have to get out of the way. We are merely the ambassador of God to our children, not the master. We relay the message, but we are not puppeteers. We teach through action and not by overpowering opinions. We listen to understand, not to respond.
When you raise your child up to think for themselves and make choices that aren’t based on your opinion but rather on what’s right, you will support their mental health. But how can we implement this in daily life?
Listen. Ask if they want your opinion on something. Ask them why they came to a conclusion.
When they make a bad choice, ask. “How can you solve this problem? What should you do to make it right?”
When they want to see a movie they aren’t mature enough for… “Let’s talk about what’s in the movie and why I don’t see it as appropriate for you. What do you think about this movie?” Perhaps watch it and let them experience why you didn’t want them to see it. Talk about why it wasn’t edifying.
When they ask you why they can’t do something, explain why. Don’t ride them off with a “Because I said so.”
Be intentional with your interactions. Daily.
And. Don’t solve their problems for them.
2. Give them the benefit of the doubt
Your child is up against a lot in this modern-day world. If the pressure isn’t enough for their grades to be good, their friendships will be confusing, their bodies will change, and their perspectives will be immature. As adults, we often forget what all that pressure feels like. And if you really delve deep into why suicides are happening more and more with young people, you will find that the expectation of perfection from society, peers, teachers, and parents is one of the leading causes.
Give your child the benefit of the doubt. In other words, have grace for their mistakes. Stop expecting perfection. I’m not advising here to let their defiance slide, no. I’m saying that let grace lead and correction follow. Let love overrule the desire to be right. Let your yes’s be yes, and your no’s be no, but leave room for a lot of “Oh, I didn’t think about that. That’s a good point. I’m going to reevaluate.”
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3. Own your parenting role
What does being a parent mean to you? Owning your parenting role means accepting the responsibility to teach, model, and guide your child emotionally, spiritually, mentally, and physically. This doesn’t mean we send them to youth groups or churches to be spiritually fed. This doesn’t mean we make sure they have more friends to feel socially fulfilled. This doesn’t mean we send them to school to be educated on beliefs or rights. This means you have influence in ALL of it.
Whatever your child is experiencing is influencing them. What do you want their most significant influence to be? Their friends? Their teachers? Their coaches?
Your influence matters. You will influence your child, and whether or not it’s a good or bad influence is up to you.
4. Set the tone
This is a considerable challenge for many of us. It’s hard to set a good tone in your family when life gets hard — your marriage is a mess, the bills aren’t paid, and you’re struggling with depression and anxiety. And while it’s important to be aware of the tone you’re setting in your household, that doesn’t mean you have to put on a mask and not be honest with your kids when things are rough.
In fact, I think it’s just as crucial for our kids to see us fail and struggle as it is for them to see us succeed. But I also think they need to see what we do when we fail. Do we give up? Do we allow our emotions to get the better of us for months, even years on end? Or do we show them that we run to Jesus when life gets hard? Do we model perseverance, humility, and seeking help when we need it?
It’s okay to tell your child that you’re getting therapy. It’s okay to tell them you’re feeling sad. So as you’re setting the tone in your home, be honest. But seek help if you’re struggling so that you can come back and set a positive tone in your household. Children love to laugh and have fun.
Has the lightheartedness in your home dissipated? What can you do to bring it back?
Home should feel safe and peaceful for our kids. And while this can’t always be the case 100% of the time, we can take steps for positive change. Your child’s mental health depends on it.
5. Consider their diet
There are numerous studies about our diet’s impact on our mental health. I’ll share my own story for your consideration.
A few weeks ago, my 1yo dog wasn’t acting himself. He seemed to be gaining weight but wasn’t eating much. His teeth were terrible, his eyes gunky. He wasn’t the sweet and lively little cocker he usually was. So I decided to change his food to see if that helped. After switching to a raw/grain-free diet, it’s almost like a switch turned him on. He was acting like a puppy again but had even MORE energy.
I thought, “If my dog is so impacted by his food, surely we are.”
I’ve been on a crazy journey of figuring out my health issues, which has led me to this. My autoimmune symptoms are very much impacted by my gut health. So I also changed my diet and have seen HUGE improvements, especially in my mental health.
I used to struggle with debilitating anxiety. Now, it’s gone.
The same can be said for your kids. Many of us have poor gut health, affecting our mental health. Try taking processed food out of your child’s diet. Try different things to see if you see an improvement in your child struggling with mental health issues. I know firsthand how this affected me and that there is hope for change that lies beyond putting a bandaid on the symptoms.
6. Ask. Listen. Repeat.
Ask them questions that don’t lead to a yes or no. “What happened today that made you smile?” And when they come to you and open up, don’t miss out. Soak it up. Listen intently. Put down your phone and show up for them.
Along with this, ask them hard questions. Daily.
“Is there something that happened today that was hard? I would love to know about it.”
Try avoiding questions like, “Are you making any friends at school?” as this can make them feel like they’ve failed if they haven’t made friends yet. Instead, you can say, “Is there someone at school with the same interests as you?”
7. Affirm them often
“You are such an incredible person. I love to be around you.”
But more than that, affirm them with your actions. Do things with them that they love to do. Show that you love to hang out with them. Learn their love language and fill their little love tanks every day.
If your son has the love language of “Time Spent,” then make sure you carve out extra time within a day to do something with them that they love. If your daughter has a “Gifts” kind of love language, bring her home something special one day and surprise her.
Positive parenting tools for every parent
Bark Premium (Parental Control App – use this link or code WFTBBLOG to try it for an EXTRA one-month FREE) – Read more about Bark Premium in my review here; perfect if your child already has a phone, but you need a parental control app to do the heavy lifting of content monitoring.
The Bark Phone – Perfect for parents looking to find their children an affordable phone that protects them from all angles – internet, unsafe apps, messaging, cyberbullying, emails, etc. Starting at $49/mo, all plans include a phone, Bark Premium, and wireless service, with no contract commitment. For younger kids, you, as the parent, can enable the phone for messaging and calls ONLY. And as they mature, you can allow more freedoms/apps (any app you wish). This phone grows WITH your child and eliminates the need to purchase multiple phones at various times in their maturity.
Computer use – When it comes to their computers, you can use Covenant Eyes.
TV’s, gaming consoles, and at-home protection – Bark Home (manage screen time and filter websites on all of the internet-connected devices in your house — including gaming consoles, TVs, and more. VidAngel (Skip or mute what you don’t want to see or hear on popular streaming platforms like Netflix and Hulu.)
Screen Time Checklist Printable for Kids – FREE if you sign up for our weekly newsletter. Just fill out your info below.
Book List for Kids and Parents:
Check out my recommended books for parenting.
Journaling for Kids
When a child is old enough to start drawing, coloring, or writing, journaling is an incredible way to help your kids better express themselves. Check out our Kid’s Printable Journals — created specifically to help children better express their feelings, encourage gratitude, and spark the imagination.
Chores for Kids:
Magnetized Chalk Chart for Fridge
Implementing chores and structure in your child’s daily life is a beneficial tool to teach them follow through, discipline, and respect. We use this chore chart in our family to help our kids keep track of their progress and keep you from constantly reminding them of their daily tasks.
If you’re looking for something simpler, this is also a good option.
Chore Chart Printable – Get it NOW from the convenience of your own printer.
If you’re looking for something you can print out immediately and start implementing chores in your home today, check out this CHORE CHART PRINTABLE. With a Mandalorian theme, it makes for a lighthearted and fun way to encourage kids to do their daily and weekly “missions.”
Emotional Connectivity with Your Kids:
Connecting on a deeper level emotionally with your child is CRUCIAL and sometimes more difficult. We play THIS GAME often in our family to create a safe space for our kids to share their questions and emotions without judgment.
We even offer an “Exemption Time” for the duration of this game, where anything he tells us is off the table for consequences.
Check out these other posts on emotional connectivity on the blog!
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