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If you are a parent of a middle school aged child or young teen, have you ever thought about the difficult challenges that your child faces growing up in today’s society? Now think back when you were that same age and you’ll probably begin to realize how drastically different things were back then compared to today. Well, “back in the day” for me was in the early to mid 80’s and I definitely wouldn’t trade my younger years for what teens face today. It was a whole lot of fun and there weren’t the type of pressures, stresses, violence and the other things that people seem to be desensitised to today. There are a lot of things that are out of your control as a parent but there are also more than a few things that you can do to help your child through their growing up years. For me it all starts with mental health. I believe that good mental health can be the foundation for your child’s growth and development around which you can foster good habits for your child to thrive.

Here are a few tips for you to consider. I think we can all agree that with the proliferation of smart phones, computers, the internet and social media, many kids just aren’t as physically active as before. Today, teens would rather be plugging away at their laptops, texting or playing with apps on their smart phones, or posting on Facebook or Twitter. You also can’t forget about video games, whether it’s console gaming, computer gaming or social gaming. Ugh – how can any of this compare to calling up your buddies, grabbing your bat and glove, and going out to the local ball field and playing baseball for 4 hours! That was fun and more importantly, we were running around getting much needed exercise. Physical activity is an outlet for stress that is built up in your system.

Furthermore, it can stimulate chemicals that can really improve your child’s mood, which can bring positive energy into their lives. Is your child signed up with any sports leagues or community activities or does he or she sit home and watch TV or interact with people through their computer or mobile device? Being out competing in sports or joining community activities gives your child the opportunity to develop good social skills while helping people in the community or encouraging a strong and healthy competitive spirit. This can be very helpful in fostering good mental health. This is often overlooked but it is absolutely crucial. Whether kids think it’s cool to spend time with their parents or not can often depend on you. Do you have an open relationship with your kids or are you quick to judge and reprimand?

Me personally, I would rather know everything that goes on in my kid’s life and be involved than be the parent who is too engrossed in work or the other goings-on in life to care – might as well be an absentee parent. Spend time with them, respect them, and talk to them. Let yourself be an outlet to anything that can potentially be bothering your child. Bottling things up, whether you’re an adult or child, is poisonous. Do as much or more listening than talking. Providing your child with a healthy environment for openess and talking things out can really help build that foundation for good menal health. Hang Out With Them I might be dating myself here but I remember an episode of “Silver Spoons” with Ricky Shroder when his friends were all over him for hanging out with his dad too much.

The reality was that the kid really enjoyed it and when he tried to “be cool” and hang out more with his friends than his dad, it made him miserably. He eventually went with his heart and realized that his dad was the one who was “cool. ”  Well, I want to be that cool dad which means spending good quality time with your child. This goes hand in hand with the previous section but it goes a step further in that you can provide your child with an outlet of just relaxing, having fun, and talking about fun stuff and things that interest them rather than a conversation about what is bothering them. Go to the beach, see a movie, go to the ballgame or go on vacations more often. This goes a long way into providing a relaxing and positive environment for your child. I’ve seen how those kids who are involved in their Church youth group have really developed a strong foundation for mental and social growth.

More importantly, it provides them a great sense of what is right and wrong and gives them accountability for their actions. They also have peers who they can confide with and leaders in the Church community who can give them guidance and counsel. It’s a whole lot of positive energy, which is perfect for developing good mental health.