Well-being and mental health is a top priority for us all. We all need to feel good about ourselves and within ourselves so that we feel good about our place in life and what we bring to it. And it’s no different for the little people in our lives. They need to feel good about themselves too. How do you go about encouraging little ones to feel good about themselves, about others, and about their place in the world? The good news is, is that they can learn it with help from you: their loving mentor, protector and most trusted ally in the world.
Feeling trusted is possibly the number one root of positive behaviour in children. It’s very easy to do everything for your child, for fear of the mess they’ll make if you don’t step in, or that it’ll be quicker for you to do it. But provided it’s a safe activity, letting children do things for themselves as much as its possible not only builds a sense of trust in themselves (I can do this!), it also builds a sense of trust between the two of you. You ‘know’ they can do simple tasks themselves and they ‘know’ they can too. As long as things stay sensible (whilst you know they can get their cup from the kitchen work top, you also know they shouldn’t be getting the scissors unless you’re there too), then allowing children safe opportunities to be independent builds a sense of trust that encourages positive well-being in us all.
Hand in hand with feeling trusted is feeling responsible. Create opportunities for your child to feel responsible under your guidance, like helping to put the clothes away in their drawers (yes it may be messy but you can always show them how to keep their clothes tidy by straightening them out as they go) or hanging their coat up after they’ve been outside (providing they can reach the coat hook, of course). Little responsibilities like this, as long as they’re safe and under your watchful eye at a distance, help children feel as though they have an important role in their home which goes a long way to promoting well-being and positive mental health.
Feeling ownership of their own things helps create a sense of responsibility too. Encouraging little ones to care for their toys, crayons and books fosters a life-long sense of taking care of their things, valuing their belongings and those of others. Show them how to put their books away so they don’t become creased, how to put their crayons and pencils away so they don’t break, and how to put their toys away gently at the end of each day so that they are ready to be played with again the next.
Feeling like their decisions matter is a fantastic way to encourage positive behaviour and positive well-being. When it’s time to go outside, give them a choice of 2 jumpers or cardigans to put on before their coat goes on. This will not only help speed up the process of getting dressed and out of the door, but it will help them feel like their decision matters to you. And that’s a big thing for little ones. It makes them feel important and that they matter. And that’s a great thing for life.
Give choices for other things like eating too. let them choose which vegetable to have for dinner. Give them a choice of say, broccoli or green beans, and let them decide which they have on their plate. It might even encourage them to eat it, too! Being listened too in this way makes children feel valued, which again not only promotes positive behaviour but also positive well-being too.
Being outside is scientifically proven to boost your mood and increase serotonin levels, which is great for well-being. So, come rain or shine (shine is always better, I know) dress for the weather and get outside! Stomp in puddles (which is actually quite fun if you’re all wearing stuff you don’t mind getting muddy), watch the raindrops fall into puddles and down leaves, take a kite out on a windy day to make the most of the gusts, picnics on nice days, walks along a river or lake to see the ducks. Even half an hour in the garden digging for treasure will leave you all with a sense of well-being if not actual treasure.
Last but not least, healthy eating and diet plays an enormous role in well-being. Lots of fruit and vegetables, as well as wholegrains, pulses and lentils are fantastic mood foods. And a little of what you fancy here and there won’t hurt if the main bulk of what you and your little ones eat is fresh and unprocessed. Add blueberries or strawberries to cereal or yoghurt for breakfast or a snack. Wholegrain toast with marmite or beans is great brain food as well as a good source of B vitamins. Tomatoes are great for B vitamins too. Try and keep dinners based on pasta, baked potatoes or wholegrain rice rather than chips or processed foods. And keep sugary snacks to a minimum, if at all. Fresh fruit or yoghurts are a healthy alternative.
Well-being in young children is so important if they are to grow up leading healthy and positive lives. You can be great role model for this, so treat yourself well as well as your family.
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