Kid's Mental Health with Dr. Jan Rourk

Mental health is just the overall way that you regulate your thoughts, feelings and behaviors. A lot has been written about being resilient and creating resilient children, meaning they can bounce back easily from hardship. What they've noticed about resilient people is that they don't expect to be happy all the time. They expect more of a roller coaster than a smooth ride. And if you think about it, how would you rather travel through life, on just a smooth flat paved road or would you like some ups and downs and some twists and turns and surprises along the way? Think about how you feel when you're climbing a mountain. You are kind of complaining and groaning but when you get to the top, the view is so worth it. That is the characteristic of taking the good with the bad.

Then the second characteristic of resilient people is that they actively choose what to focus on and for the most part they focus on those good things. And then the third thing is that resilient people tend to ask themselves pretty regularly: is what I'm doing helpful to me? They may notice if they have the TV on all day that that emotional content is too much for them to handle.

Social media today creates a real challenge for children because they don't have the context of body language and human interaction. They also have inputs from a much wider range since they hear all the bad things that happen all around the world instead of just a smaller area. This can be very emotionally overwhelming for children.

How you react emotionally has to do with your personality and your genetics, plus other experiences that you've had in your life. But once that has happened, how you proceed from that point is totally in your control. That is a really empowering piece of information to give kids; you feel how you feel, but you can choose how to respond. That gives you power so you're not the victim of your emotions and you have some control. I think we've all had the experience where we watch our toddler fall down and they look back at us to see whether they should cry or not. So knowing what your feelings are is very important for your children. Then you have to figure out what your kids are feeling and you are in a uniquely good position to do this because you know them the best of anyone, so you have a little bit of insight as to what they might be feeling.

Developmentally, kids can't always identify their feelings very well, so it is very helpful if the parent helps the child to identify what they are feeling. For example: I see that you are stomping around, slamming doors and throwing toys, you must be pretty frustrated. That's a helpful thing to say so that kids know this is what is going on. Then you can help them choose what to do going forward, once those feelings are identified.