In general, when talking about health in childhood, we immediately think about prioritizing the physical well-being of children and adolescents. At home, the entire environment is adapted to protect and shelter the boys and girls throughout their growth. But where is mental health at an early age?
Child psychologist María Laura Lezaeta spoke with Clarín about it. "Generally," he said, "the necessary conditions are fostered so that they can optimally develop the different milestones of their development (crawling, walking, achieving bowel and bladder control, for example)." However, the expert stressed that, in addition to guaranteeing all the rights to physical integrity of children and adolescents, mental health is also a determining factor in development.
In fact, 75 years ago the WHO defined health as "a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity." In the construction of this integral domain, Lezaeta framed that the family and educators play an irreplaceable role.
In the words of the child psychologist: "Experiences in the first years of life have a significant impact on the mental health of adult life, so from an early age it is important to promote them, in the same way that we attend to their physical health, the conditions and resources necessary for them to develop emotional skills, which they learn to know, identify, understand and manage their emotions."
If the adult yells when he is angry or frustrated, this is how the children will react. (Photo: illustration Shutterstock)
It is that, spinning fine, mental health is not only "a basic human right", but consists of "a state of psychic well-being that allows people to face the stresses of life, develop their skills, learn and work well and contribute to their community", says the WHO.
The value of teaching emotion management to kids at home
Lezaeta indicated that in childhood habits and certain patterns of behavior are modeled from the bond and experiences that we build with the children. That is, by teaching children and adolescents to manage their emotions, this happens, above all, through example.
"If we respond to situations that arouse anger in situations that make us angry, the child will learn that the way to react to this emotion is to shout. If we respond by remaining calm and in control of the situation, the child will reproduce that same behavior in angry situations," he said.
The child psychologist said that, if we want to raise a child who reaches adulthood with the ability to "recognize and register their own emotions" and overcome the obstacles that life presents, the essential thing is to create an environment in which they grow up feeling that "their emotions are taken into account", not judged or minimized, and that you have adults who are "guides who help you 'decipher' what happens to you, putting into words what you are feeling." Through that guidance, the child can "understand the causes that 'awakened' that emotion he felt."
6 keys to take care of the mental health of children and adolescents
Helping them understand what they feel and how to express it is critical. (Photo: illustration Shutterstock)
However, it is known that parenting is one of the greatest challenges and responsibilities when maternal or paternal. Therefore, the proposals and tools of breeding are not few. How is it possible to help children in their emotional development? Lezaeta proposed five keys to apply at home.
1. Validate and empathize with their emotions
Be able to tune into their experiences and help them understand that what happens to them makes sense. "This will allow them to understand themselves, name their experiences confidently and gradually communicate them to others," he said.
2. Provide them with experiences and moments of play and free time
Contrary to the productivity mandate of adult life, the psychologist rescues the importance of free time in children. In short, leisure time "promotes experiences of enjoyment and emotional well-being in both children and adolescents" and "allows to discharge levels of tension and stress".
3. Promote conditions so that they can establish healthy and stable friendships
Cultivating friendships is part of children's development and socialization. (Photo: illustration Shutterstock)
In addition to the essential structure of family and caregivers, bonds between friends and camaraderie allow the socialization of all individuals outside kinship ties to develop. Lezaeta indicated that "having a good containment network contributes to the mental and emotional well-being of every child and adolescent."
4. Give them age-appropriate responsibilities
As they grow, that children have duties that contribute to the positive dynamics of home and fulfill them is a valuable skill that, according to the specialist, will also help them develop "the ability to make decisions, to promote their self-esteem and autonomy."
Completing activities on their own such as keeping their space in order, collaborating with family members, offering help to others, "will allow them to feel able to make decisions and develop greater confidence in themselves," the psychologist added.
Having healthy eating habits also contributes to mental health in children and adolescents (Photo: illustration Shutterstock)
5. Promote good physical health
As we have seen, health is an integral state and, therefore, for it to exist a physical component is required. Ensuring that well-being in children "has an extremely positive impact on mental health," Lezaeta said.
As an example, he pointed out that "having healthy eating habits or exercising regularly with adequate rest guidelines protects them against the stress that can arise in difficult situations."
6. Share and promote family play experiences
Playing as a family is also an opportunity for children to have fun, exercise patience and tolerance for frustration. (Photo: illustration Shutterstock)
In doing so, the specialist indicated in addition to fun, when we play with children and adolescents "we give them the opportunity to put into practice certain skills and abilities." Among them, patience in the face of waiting (to wait your turn, for example) and the ability to tolerate frustration.
The psychologist explained that, more than winning or losing in something, the dynamic that unfolds will be "a learning that will leave traces of teaching in your life" to accompany you throughout your childhood, adolescence and adulthood.
Advised by María Laura Lezaeta, child psychologist and co-founder of JUEGOlogía. On Instagram, @juegologia.