3. Focus on what matters. Many mental disorders are evident in early childhood. You can do three things to help your child avoid problems later in life.
First, surround your child with loving and caring adults. Meaningful contacts between your child and other adults are the single most important thing you can do to promote your child’s mental health. This means making family relationships a key priority. Involve your child in activities where they can experience the presence of people who will value, guide, and love them.
Second, avoid toxic experiences. Kids raised in an environment of family violence, drug abuse, mentally ill parents, severe economic hardships, and marital instability are much more likely to develop mental disorders. I realize you don’t have control over all of these factors, but many are within your influence.
Finally, don’t be reluctant to seek professional help for your child. Attentive parents go to extraordinary lengths to seek medical attention for a cough or cold, but ignore symptoms of depression, anxiety or conduct disorders.
I’m not blaming parents for this oversight, as our mental health system is complicated and confusing. Parents need help in distinguishing between normal childhood behaviors and symptoms of pathology. When in doubt, speak with other parents, your doctor, or with a mental health professional.