aving a healthy childhood can be the difference between a healthy life, or one of pain and struggle. It’s the key to being a healthy, happy, successful person. If there is trouble growing up, it can affect a child’s mental health for the rest of their lives. That’s why it’s so important to pay attention to your child’s wellbeing, and make sure they have all the tools they need. Because children are so easily influenced, parents are the most important figures in a child’s life. They are the people who children look up to the most, and oftentimes, children directly mirror their parents. 

What Does it Mean to Have a Healthy Childhood?

When a parent is happy, the child is happy. As a parent, paying attention to your own mental health will translate to your child. In order to take care of someone else, you must first take care of yourself; the way to a healthy childhood is through healthy parents. 

This means self care for the whole family, including something as simple as eating well, exercising, doing activities, and getting enough sleep. 

According to the Center for Youth Wellness, the domains of wellness are:

  • Balanced Nutrition
  • Mindfulness and Meditation Practices
  • Supportive Relationships
  • Getting Out in Nature
  • Psychotherapy
  • Regular Exercise

These are used as a guide to ensure that every family is practicing what they need to provide a healthy environment. For instance, eating well will keep your child healthy and well. It’s important to have a balanced diet, just like getting out and exercising. Going out for a walk in the park with the whole family can be very beneficial, in terms of physical health and mental health. Regularly visiting a physician and a dental professional like this dentist who does high-quality teeth whitening in Lunenburg will keep your family's health in check. Practicing mindfulness will ensure that everyone in the family is on the same page, that their concerns are being addressed, and that every member of the family is shown respect, even the children. These are all practices that will allow families to come together and create a healthy, happy environment.

Why is a Healthy Home Environment Important? 

The Center for Youth Wellness describes the issue of ACE, or adverse childhood experiences, which can cause health issues and behavioral issues. Any kind of abuse or neglect, whether physical or emotional, can affect a child for the rest of their lives and do irreversible damage to their brains. If a child’s home environment is toxic and stressful, it can actually increase the risk of disease and chronic illnesses. This can affect the child into adulthood, and increases their risk of developing illnesses such as cancer and heart disease. 

The results of a toxic home environment can play a huge role in the mental health of the whole family, but especially developing children. This is why a healthy childhood can make or break a person’s entire life. 

There are terms relating to the mental health of children which are Social-Emotional Health and Relational Health. Social-Emotional Health is important because it defines the way we create connections with others and develop our emotions. Much of this is developed during early childhood. It has to do with the way we form our connections with the people around us, something we do even as infants. 

Relational Health defines the way we develop secure, nurturing relationships with the people we trust, which actually can prevent stress responses. If we have these secure, trusting relationships as children, it will greatly increase our mental wellbeing. In short, the health and wellness of children is dependent on secure, nurturing familial relationships, which start in early childhood.

Children with relational health and social-emotional health are less likely to develop behavior issues, are able to communicate and express themselves effectively, and are able to regulate their emotions. 

These aren’t the only important aspects of health, though. Physical health is important, too. Mental, emotional, relational, and physical health are all connected to the endocrine system. The endocrine system is what’s responsible for creating hormones, such as stress responses. With physical activity, these hormones can be released, allowing your body and your nervous system to be stress hormone-free. A balance of work on mental health and physical health can make a world of difference.  

Boy with stretched out arms smiling.
Healthy environments make for confident children.

What Does the Ideal Childhood Look Like?

Children have basic needs, as we have outlined. These include, but are not limited to, a healthy diet, a secure place to live, physical exercise, and a healthy connection with their caregivers. While no family is perfect, it’s important to establish a secure and safe foundation for your child. A healthy home would be one where the parents are taking care of their mental health, so they can be the best version of themselves. 

The parents are providing a secure and nurturing environment where they have established an emotional connection with their child so they feel accepted, loved, and never afraid of their parents. The child would have a community to be part of, and the parents would provide them with encouragement to try new things and not be afraid of failure. An ideal childhood would be one where they create memories together, and overcome challenges as a family.

Developing children must also explore their identity, and how it relates to their family history. If a child feels secure in their identity, it creates a feeling of confidence and self awareness which will last into adulthood and determine how they operate in the real world. 

These foundations will allow a child to form meaningful connections with others outside of their family. They are essential for creating a healthy environment where a child can feel safe, secure, and loved, and ready for the real world. 

What This Means for Parents

Children who are properly nurtured and given all the foundations of a healthy lifestyle can thrive and become high functioning, well-balanced adults. If a child’s needs are not met, it can affect their mental and physical health for the rest of their lives. A healthy childhood can allow children to have meaningful friendships and romantic relationships. It can allow them to be successful, and not be held back by behavioral issues or even worse, chronic illness. Many issues that occur in adulthood can be prevented by nurturing a child during their formative years, and it’s important to recognize that as a parent. While raising children isn’t easy, it’s important to do it right, meaning creating a good environment free of stress and toxicity.

Children thrive in environments where their needs are being met, and where parents take care of themselves, as well. If parents practice self-care, they can be the best version of themselves, and provide their child with the best care.

According to PBS, some important things to practice as a parent are:

  • Listening to your child: Listening to your children will allow you to develop a deeper connection with them, and they will feel heard and accepted by you. This benefits your relationship, and creates confidence in the child, and the feeling that they matter.
  • Doing school work with your child: Helping your child with school work can deepen your connection with them as well. This doesn’t mean playing teacher, but helping them with math problems, reading, etc. will allow you and your child to be on the same page.
  • Connecting with what they like to do: This will allow your child to establish their interests and hobbies, by explaining them to you and showing you what they like to do. It can create a sense of purpose within your child.
  • Reading with your child: Reading with your child is a good way to bond with them. If they struggle with wanting to read, doing it with someone else will make them feel better about it, and it will allow you to help them if they need it.
Dad reading a book to his two children.
Family therapy can be a great tool for creating a healthy home life for your children to thrive in. Image courtesy of The CDC.

One aspect of the domains of wellness is psychotherapy. Sometimes, families need help and can’t handle it all on their own. Sometimes, parents may suffer from childhood traumas that need to be healed, too. That’s where therapy comes in. Therapy can be a great way to get everyone on the same page, and develop a plan of action. If it seems like you are struggling to provide a happy, healthy environment, a therapist can help lead you and your family to that place. Therapy can allow families to figure out what issues they are having, and find solutions to those issues. 

Jan 4, 2023