Getting kids to follow through with mental health practices at home can be challenging, but there are several strategies you can employ to encourage their participation and engagement in this vital component of their treatment plan.
Create A Routine
Establish a regular schedule for mental health practices, whether it be meditation, mindfulness exercises, or journaling. Make it a consistent part of their daily routine, just like brushing their teeth or doing homework. Encourage parents to support this and not wait until there is a crisis. Provide concrete practices so the child knows exactly what they should be doing and when.
Children are more likely to adopt habits if they see their parents or caregivers practicing them too. Employ mental health practices the family can do together. This not only shows their support but also strengthens their bond and provides an opportunity for shared experiences and discussions.
Make it Age-Appropriate and Fun
Adapt mental health practices to be suitable for a child’s age and developmental stage. Use engaging activities, games, and creative exercises that capture their interest and make the practice enjoyable. We love incorporating movement to our practices. This helps keep attention steady as well.
Explain the Benefits
Discuss the positive impact of mental health practices on their well-being, including reduced stress, improved focus, and better emotional regulation. Help them understand that these practices are essential for maintaining good mental health, just like physical exercise is for their physical health.
Educate How the Brain Works
Children and teens often get stuck in their head. It is helpful to teach how the brain works and what can get it off-track. Teaching the concept of “you are not your mind” is one of our favorites!
Provide Structured Routines
Help children establish a consistent routine for mental health practices at home. Set specific times for engaging in these activities, making it a regular part of their day. Consistency and predictability can help build habits and increase compliance.
Use Visual Aids
Utilize visual aids such as charts, calendars, or progress trackers to help children visualize their progress. These visual reminders can serve as motivation and reinforcement, allowing them to see the results of their efforts over time.
Incorporate Celebrations and Incentives
Offer small celebrations or incentives to motivate children to follow through with their mental health practices. These rewards can be tangible items, special privileges, or simple acknowledgments such as praise and encouragement. Try to avoid video games or phone time etc. as a reward, if possible.
Individualize the Approach
Tailor the mental health practices to each child’s unique needs, preferences, and strengths. Consider their learning style, interests, and personality when designing the activities. Customizing the approach increases the likelihood of engagement and commitment. Bonus points if they can help decide what they want to customize!
Provide Ongoing Support
Offer consistent support and guidance to children and their families. Check in regularly, answer questions, address concerns, and provide additional resources or modifications as needed. Knowing they have someone to turn to can enhance their commitment to the practices.
Foster a Therapeutic Alliance
Build a strong rapport and trusting relationship with the child. When they feel understood, supported, and respected by the therapist, they are more likely to be motivated to engage in mental health practices outside of therapy sessions.
Be Patient and Flexible
Recognize that children may not always be in the mood or fully cooperative. Be understanding and adaptable if they’re not up for a particular practice on a given day. Encourage them to express their feelings and provide alternative options when needed, knowing they may resist practice when they need it most. Having a familiar routine established helps to overcome this.
Remember, consistency and gentle encouragement are key when trying to establish new habits. It may take time for children to fully embrace mental health practices, so be patient and supportive throughout the process. Getting kids to take an active role in their well being is a skill that will serve them for the rest of their lives and is well worth the effort.