Basics for a Child's Good Physical Health:
Basics for a Child's Good Mental Health:
Give Your Child Unconditional Love
Love, security and acceptance should be at the heart of family life. Your child needs
to know that your love does not depend on his or her accomplishments. Mistakes and/or
defeats should be expected and accepted. Confidence grows in a home that is full of
unconditional love and affection.
Nurture Your Child's Confidence and Self-Esteem
Praise Your Child Encouraging your child's first steps or his or her ability to learn a
new game helps your child develop a desire to explore and learn about his or her
surroundings. Allow your child to explore and play in a safe area where they cannot get
hurt. Assure your child by smiling and talking to him or her often. Be an active
participant in your child's activities. Your attention helps build his or her
self-confidence and self-esteem.
Set Realistic Goals
Young children need realistic goals that match their ambitions with their abilities.
With your help, older children can choose activities that test their abilities and
increase their self-confidence.
Do not hide your failures from your children. It is important for youngsters to know
that we all make mistakes. It can be very re-assuring to know that Mom and Dad are not
Avoid Sarcastic Remarks
If your child loses a game or fails a test, try to find out how he or she feels about
the situation. Your youngster may be discouraged and need a pep talk. Later, when your
child is ready, talk about a new way to play the game or study.
Encourage your child not only to strive to do his or her best, but also to enjoy the
process. Trying new activities teaches children about teamwork, self-esteem and new
Make Time for Play!
Encourage Your Child to Play To a child, play is just fun; however, playtime is as
important to your child' s development as food and good care. Playtime helps your child
be creative, learn problem-solving skills and learn self-control. Good, hard play,
which includes running and yelling, is not only fun, but helps your child to be
physically and mentally healthy.
Children Need Playmates
Sometimes it is important for your child to feel like "one of the gang." By playing
with friends, your child discovers his or her strengths and weaknesses and develops a
sense of belonging and how to get along with other children. If there are no children
in your neighborhood, you might find a good children's program through neighbors, local
community centers, schools, or your local parks and recreation department.
Parents Can be Great Playmates
Join in the fun! Playing Monopoly or coloring with yow child gives you a great
opportunity to share ideas and spend time together in a relaxed setting.
Play for Fun
Winning is not as important as being involved and enjoying the activity. One of the
most important questions to ask your child is "Did you have fun?" not "Did you win" ln
our goal-oriented society, we often acknowledge only success and winning. This attitude
can be discouraging and frustrating to children who are learning and experimenting with
new activities. It's more important for children to participate and enjoy themselves.
TV Use Should Be Monitored
Try not to use TV as a "baby-sitter" on a regular basis. Be selective in choosing
television shows for your child. Some shows can be educational as well as entertaining.
School Should Be Fun!
If your child is about to start school, "playing school" can be a positive way to give
him or her a glimpse of school life. Try to enroll your child in a good pre-school,
Head Start, or similar community program which provides an opportunity to be with other
kids and make new friends. Your child should learn academic basics as well as how to
make decisions and cope with problems. Teachers should encourage individual development
and help children become competent, healthy adults.
Provide Appropriate Guidance and Instructive Discipline. Your guidance and discipline
should be fair and consistent. Children need the opportunity to explore and develop new
skills and independence. At the same time, children need to learn that certain
behaviors are unacceptable and that they are responsible for the consequences of their
actions. As members of a family, children need to learn the rules of the family unit.
They will take these social skills and rules of conduct to school and eventually to the
Discipline and Punishment
Physical punishment may lead to resentment and more disobedience. It is extremely
important for parents to learn and develop disciplinary skills, other than spanking or
Suggestions on Guidance and Discipline:
Provide a Safe and Secure Home
It's okay for children to feel afraid sometimes. Everyone is afraid of something at
some point in their life. Fear and anxiety grow out of experiences that we do not
understand. If your child has fears that will not go away and affects his or her
behavior, the first step is to find out what is frightening your child. Be loving,
patient and reassuring, not critical. Remember: the fear may be very real to the child.
Signs of Fear
Nervous mannerisms, shyness, withdrawal and aggressive behavior may be signs of
childhood fears. A change in a child's normal eating and sleeping patterns may also
signal an unhealthy fear. Children who "play sick" or feel anxious regularly may have
some problems that need attention. Fear of school can occur following a stressful event
such as moving to a new neighborhood or changing schools. Children may not want to go
to school after a period of being at home because of an illness or having increased
contact with Mom or Dad during a summer vacation or a holiday break.
When to Seek Help
Parents are usually the first to notice if their child has problems with emotions or
behavior. Your observations, and those of teachers and other caregivers may lead you to
seek help for your child. If you suspect a problem, consult your pediatrician or
contact a mental health professional. Warning Signs of a Child's Mental or Emotional
The following signs may indicate the need for a professional evaluation:
Where to Seek Help
Information and referrals regarding the types of services that are available for
children may be obtained from:
For More Information
Call Ten Broeck Hospital at 502-426-6380 or 1-800-866-8876
For additional resources, please call 1-800-969-NMHA.
American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health
Family Support America
National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities
National Association of School Psychologists
What Every Child Needs for Good Mental Health is one in a series of pamphlets on
children and teen mental health. Other NMHA titles include:
NMHA offers additional pamphlets on a variety of mental health topics. For more
information or to order multiple copies of pamphlets, please call 1-800-969-NMHA