Good physical health is important for your child's overall growth and development. However, it is not enough as sound mental health has an equally important part to play in your child's life.
By Mina Dilip
A child who is emotionally healthy is able to verbalise feelings, communicate assertively, initiate, establish and maintain healthy relationships with peers and family members, handle stressful situations gracefully, respond proactively instead of reacting thoughtlessly and above all, remain happy. I often get asked whether it is possible for parents to do anything about their children’s emotional well-being. Being an eternal optimist, I always say, ‘Yes, of course!’
Here are five simple everyday activities that you can use as parents to help your child de-stress at the end of a tough day, and develop healthy coping mechanisms to face the challenges of life.
This game takes about 5-7 minutes when played in a small family of four members.
Here's what you'll need:
Family members sit in a circle (either on the floor or at a table). Each person takes turns rolling the dice. Based on the number you roll, you choose the statement from the chart, and share it with your family by completing the sentence. For example, if you roll 3, you would share with your family what you enjoyed that day. This is repeated by everyone in the circle thrice.
This game will teach your child to be grateful for the little pleasures that life affords us. Playing this game regularly can help reduce anxiety and increase a feeling of well-being. When you play this game with your child, he will tend to feel closer to you and his siblings. He will share his things easily, and find it easier to cope with challenges in day-to-day life. And, to be able to say something meaningful on rolling the number 5, your child will start doing random acts of kindness for people around him. In the long run, all of these things add up to positive emotional health.
If you have a young child, bubbles are a great resource. They are cheap, easy to source and a lot of fun to use with children. All you need to do is start blowing bubbles. Your child will do the rest. She will love catching the bubbles or even bursting them. This burns excess energy and calms her down.Here's what you'll need:
To make the bubble liquid:
3 cups of warm water
6 tsp sugar
6 tsp dish washing liquid
How to: Combine all three and your bubble liquid is ready.
To make the wand:
3 inches of steel wire
How to: Poke the wire in through the straw and twist the ends together to form a loop.
When your child blows bubbles, it teaches her healthy breathing. When the bubbles are small and many in number, you can tell that the child’s breathing is shallow. To teach her to breathe deeply and slowly, you can set a challenge of creating bigger bubbles. In order to create big bubbles, she will have to hold her breath and let it out slowly. When you see the size of the bubbles increasing, it is tangible proof that she has mastered breath control.
Deep breathing aids relaxation and reduces the impact of stress on the child’s body. Deep breathing also replenishes the oxygen levels in the body and helps her detox naturally.
Some families have the habit of praying together, which brings them closer. In fact, there is an old adage that says, “Families that pray together stay together”. For such families, I recommend the ‘Letter to God’ exercise.
You and your child write a letter addressed to God, in which you thank Him for the things you are grateful for. You encourage your child to put down his worries, anxieties, hopes and wishes. You do this on the first day of the week (Sunday). Put the letters into a box. Every night, after dinner, take one letter out of the box and ask your child to read it aloud.Here's what you'll need:
This exercise helps in family bonding. You and your child understand each other's hopes and fears. This cultivates a feeling of harmony and mutual support. In such an environment, your child will develop empathy as well as a tendency to share his feelings using words.
An excellent exercise in free association, this is a simple game and can be played anytime, anywhere. I particularly recommend that this be played when you are waiting at a bus stop, airport or at the hospital, for instance.
You or your child say one sentence to start a story. The next person adds a sentence to continue the story. This goes on until the story ends (or the waiting is over).
Here's what you'll need:
Loads of patience to encourage your child in her attempts to narrate the story (communicate).
Again, this is an exercise in bonding which helps your child develop creativity, spontaneity and tolerance. When your child tries to steer the story in a particular direction, but it does not sound like a logical continuation, he will learn to adapt, and cope with frustration as well.
The value of this game is tremendous in our culture where attention-grabbing through loud techniques is common.
Everybody remains silent until the first person breaks the silence. The person who speaks first has to perform some 'dare' that is put forth by someone else in the family.
Here's what you'll need:
A quiet room with chairs or floor space to sit down as a family
Besides teaching the power of silence, this game also improves the non-verbal communication of your child. It helps her appreciate the nuances of body language and communicating wordlessly.
These activities are simple and require minimum effort in terms of procuring props or materials. However, they have a very long-lasting impact, particularly in boosting the emotional health of not just your child, but of every family member.
The author is a child psychologist who uses non-directive play to help children therapeutically.
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