5 simple tips to help our kids cope and prosper

| March 12, 2018

Many of my adult clients would not be experiencing mental health issues now if they had learned better coping skills between the ages of four and eight.

The first four years of a child’s life is spent teaching them how to walk, talk and develop their motor skills. But what a parent should then be doing is switching their attention and spending the next four years working on their emotional development skills.

Most adult skills begin at the age of six but a lot of parents have the view that children are like plants – they just grow naturally – which is often not the case.

In an effort to stem the current shocking rate of mental health issues – it costs £99 billion a year in the UK and $12.8 billion a year in Australia – my team at Adelaide Psychological Services in South Australia have developed the WeParent website. The site helps parents teach children clinically proven skills first time around in a bid to stop mental health issues arising later in life.

A lot of the literature available to parents is very black and white – either a child is healthy or they’ve got a disorder. However, there’s this group in the middle of kids with very distinct temperaments and I’m keen that we pitch at that level.

Bullies actually want to be leaders, for example, but they use very bad techniques and it’s good to sort them out when they are about six, as well as teaching life skills to children on how to protect themselves from being bullied.

We all worry about our children, but here are five tips to help nurture resilient kids.  These strategies all help build a positive self-image from a young age, which can protect against confidence issues and mental illness in adolescence and adulthood.

  1. Sharing

Focus on praising children when they are sharing rather than disciplining them when they are not.

  1. Jealousy

Stop comparing your children to others. Social comparisons lead children to believe that your affection is conditional.

  1. Conflict management

Kids who learn to compromise make and keep friends more easily. Teaching children how to manage conflict during their mid-childhood years is especially important because what they learn at this age is difficult to alter later in life.

  1. Independence

Your child might not be leaving home any time soon, but it’s important to teach them self-care early. Small tasks like learning to tie their own shoelaces give kids a huge sense of pride and independence.

  1. OK to be sad

Teaching kids how to manage sadness is proven to reduce anger and depression in adulthood. Sadness is a waste product of the body and should not be allowed to build up – so let kids let it out.

Don Tustin

Dr Don Tustin is the clinical director of Adelaide Psychological Services, a well established group practice of psychologists located at Glenelg East.  He specialises in marriage and relationship counselling, parenting skills and adjustment to health issues.