Kids Mental Health

Tips on How to Teach Kids the Connection between Physical and Mental Health

Mental health has become a common topic of conversation over the last decade and more prominently throughout the last two years. As parents, it is important to education children about the simple options we can take to improve our mental health.

Research shows that physical health plays an important role in enhancing the general well-being of our mental health. Generally, people suffering from mental health issues will often experience physical health problems, and similarly, those suffering physical health problems can also experience co-occurring mental health conditions. Teaching our children from a young age about the connection between physical and mental health can help them become more aware and proactive about both. Following are a few things we can do with our kids to help them become more educated.

1. Provide some examples of the ‘mind-body connection’

When you know your child is worried about something (i.e., going back to school after holidays) and they say they feel sick or complain of a tummy ache, explain to them that how you think can affect how you feel. This is called the mind-body connection and is how our body responds to stress. If we worry too much, our body feels it as well and experiences negative reactions such as pain, tension, headaches and stomach problems.

2. Explain while ‘doing’.

Explaining why exercise is good for your physical and mental health is a great thing to do while you are ‘in the moment’ having fun with your kids – for example, at the park, bike riding, surfing or kicking a ball. Acknowledging this, we can mention; “hey, did you know that when we play like this, our brain releases feel-good hormones called endorphins and serotonin that improves our brain function and makes our brain cells grow! So not only is our body getting stronger, but our brain is getting stronger at the same time!”.

3. Google some illustrations on the human ‘sleep cycle’ (ie., so your children can see the different stages

Let your kids know that as you pass through the different stages, and particularly in deep sleep, physiological changes are happening that strengthen your immune system. The other cycle, REM sleep (Rapid Eye Movement), is when we dream. This is when our brain works on improving our learning ability, forming and retaining memories, and improving our emotional health. When we exercise or play lots during the day, we tend to sleep much better and our mental health gets a big High-5!!!

4. Be a good role model by eating a nutritious and balanced diet

Role modeling is our most powerful tool as we teach our children healthy habits that influence their physical and mental health. Preparing healthy food together with our kids whilst explaining how high levels of performance, mentally and physically, run on high levels of nutrients can be fun AND educational!

5. Try something different like Yoga and Meditation

Research on yoga and meditation shows how these activities have a positive impact on your brain and body. Loads of classes are now popping up (which you can do together with your children!) to teach you about mindfulness, mindful movement and breathing done through yoga. These activities activate the relaxation response (rest-and-digest system) via the vagus nerve, increasing physical and emotional well-being.

Day-to-day it can be difficult to have an overhaul of your family’s routine, however implementing one of these simple steps at a time can benefit not only your children from a young age, but also help you as a parent.