04. Wellness

The Link Between a Child’s Development and Mental Health

November 4, 2021

A child’s development does not only involve addressing their physical needs. Just as important is nurturing and developing kids' mental health. Having well-rounded mental health allows a child to develop social skills and cognitive abilities.

If you are a parent, you know that good nutrition through a proper diet is one way to provide the nourishment that your child needs for physical and mental development.

Additionally, other factors like having friends, family, and a safe, secure environment also help develop self-confidence and a sense of responsibility in your child. This article discusses the key ways you can positively guide a child’s development and contribute to improving their mental health.

The Importance of a Child’s Good Mental Health and Development

Having good mental health gives children a better opportunity to succeed in their academic pursuits and fit better into society. Mental health works together with physical health and affects how a child thinks, feels, and acts.

Being mentally healthy allows children to achieve developmental and emotional milestones, effectively solve problems, and learn social skills to function well at home, school, and the community.

5 Ways to Develop a Child’s Mental Health

Children have varying levels of mental health needs. One set of methods may work for one child and another set for another. Here are some specific ways you can help your child develop a healthy mindset.

1. Encourage Self-Confidence

One way to make children confident of their actions is to acknowledge their achievements and even praise them. Talking to them and even making small gestures like smiling and patting their shoulders can do a lot to improve their self-esteem.

Children may also develop more confidence in themselves if you set goals that they can realistically achieve. For example, asking your child to get a perfect score on a school quiz may be a high hurdle for them and discouraging if they fail. Instead, giving them a score range, say around 80% or higher, may likely enable them to achieve your expectations and provide them with a confidence boost.

Even if the child still fails, it's best to resist being condescending or talking down on your child. Consider asking them what they feel, then talk about what you and the child should do in the future and offer assurance.

Another way to make your child feel confident about themselves is to tell them about your past mistakes or challenges. Perhaps you can tell them about your childhood experience in a similar situation as theirs. This way, your child may feel that they are not alone in their struggle, and they can get back up with your support.

2. Provide an Opportunity for Play

Play is a significant part of your kid’s childhood. This activity does not only provide enjoyment and break time from school activities. Playing also benefits your child by allowing them to develop their creativity, imagination, and problem-solving skills.

You can let your child experience play by:

Encouraging them to play - Children are young once and need to make the most out of it through play. Play creates an opportunity for them to solve problems and even develop physically and mentally.

Letting them play with other kids - Playing with other children allows your kid to socialize and make friends. Having other kids to play with also lets your child learn about cooperation and teamwork.

Joining them in their play - Playing becomes when done with their parents or other relatives. It also becomes more enjoyable and allows the child to develop faster.

For example, your child may have a better time playing board games like Scrabble, Monopoly, or chess with adult players, like parents or caregivers.

Adults who comprehend the game better can explain to the kids so that they understand the rules more easily.

Playing for fun, not for competition - Competition is not a bad thing. However, the child may not appreciate the game that much if they only play it to win.

This mindset may cause the child to become frustrated if they see losing as a bad thing.

Instead, let the child have fun. They may have a better opportunity to learn and develop themselves regardless of the outcome of the game.

3. Provide Appropriate Discipline and Guidance

Part of a child’s learning and development include taking actions by themselves and being independent. This way, the child can learn new skills and make decisions when faced with unforeseen situations.

However, they must also learn what actions and behavior are unacceptable. They must also learn to take responsibility, especially if their behavior causes negative consequences.

Suppose you set house rules telling your child not to run too fast within the house. Despite those rules, your kid still decides to run and ends up breaking an expensive vase. In that case, you have to make the child understand why you set those rules and explain the consequences of their actions so that they will not do it again. For example, a broken vase may cause injury to your child or other people.

By learning about responsibility and consequences, children are more likely to develop social skills and proper conduct when in school or public places.

4. Show Unconditional Love

Your child should experience love, acceptance, and a sense of security in your home. To do this, you must acknowledge that no child is perfect and that your kid has a learning and development pace that may differ from your expectations.

Showing your kids unconditional love may allow them to confide with you more and talk about their accomplishments and struggles. They will grow confident, knowing you will listen to them and provide them with guidance.

Unconditional love does not mean tolerating wrongdoings. It should be made clear to your child that you are firm and consistent with your decisions and that your method of discipline is fair.

5. Provide a Safe and Secure Environment

Children may experience fear, uncertainty, and a sense of vulnerability. These feelings are normal and warranted, and you do not have to dismiss those feelings.

The important thing is that you can acknowledge your child’s fears and tell them that they can still experience safety and security in your company. A comforting environment is as much about social security as physical security.


Mental health should not just be described as simply having or not having a mental disorder. Instead, mental health is a continuum that parents must address with varying care and development levels tailored to each child.

While this article mentions several ways to effectively develop your child’s mental health, this list is not exhaustive. You may discover other methods that work best for you and your child.

Consult with a psychologist or cognitive behavioral therapist if you need more information or help regarding your child’s mental health. If you wish to find professional therapy or pursue treatment options, visit MentalHealth.gov as a place to start.

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