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Mental Health for Children: A Guide for Parents

Identifying a child’s physical needs can often be easier than identifying their mental health needs. However, mental health for children is important for brain growth and development. Mental health allows children to develop social skills, learn, and grow. Parents can help children to develop confidence and self-esteem by supporting their child’s mental health.

Basic Physical Health Needs:

    • Nutrition

    • Immunizations

    • Physical Activity

    • Shelter

Basic Mental Health Needs:

    • Ability to play with other children

    • Encouragement from caregivers and teachers

    • Safety

    • Support, guidance, and appropriate discipline

    • Unconditional Love

How can I help my child meet their mental health needs?

    • Unconditional love: Loving and accepting your child completely at any stage they are in. Mistakes should be expected and accepted.

    • Encourage and praise: Encourage your children to explore and learn in a safe space. Allow them to take an active role in activities, like cooking with you. Smiling and talking to them as you complete the activity can help their confidence grow.

    • Set realistic goals: Setting goals that match your child’s abilities can increase their self-confidence and self-esteem.

    • Allow for play: Encourage playtime both with other children and you!

    • Make school fun: Make school an important and big event in a child’s life. If your child is young, “playing school” with your child can help them prepare and get excited to learn. For older children, reading and talking to them about school, even in the summer, is important.


Written by Grace Pelak

MPH Candidate 2021 | Nutrition Concentration

Gillings School of Global Public Health, the University of North Carolina