Maximize Your Family’s Mental Wellness

As parents, daily we’re faced with the task of caring for human beings. We work to provide shelter, food, clothing and opportunities for our children. In the midst of our busy lives, it can be easy to overlook the importance of the mental health of our family.   

Experts agree that prioritizing family mental health can strengthen family bonds and help create a healthy mindset in family members. So, what should we do when we want to prioritize mental health? Let’s learn from local experts about how you can improve the mental wellness in your family. 

Take Care of Yourself 

The cornerstone of your family’s mental wellbeing begins with you, the parent. Practically, it’s not possible to get rid of our daily responsibilities. It is possible to give yourself time to do things that rejuvenate you, no matter how small.  

“We need the basics, just like a houseplant,” says Jessica Hood, owner and clinical director at Indy Child Therapist LLC. That includes “food, water, sunshine and sleep.” Small moments of rest and recharge can be as simple as savoring your coffee, taking a brisk walk or connecting with a friend. 

Define Family Values 

We all have values that dictate how we live our lives. Defining your family values is important. Why? While values aren’t rules, they’re guidelines that help define how you and your children want your family to function.  

Sitting together and discussing core values fosters a sense of unity in your family. “Is it that you’re respectful? Spend time together? Value honesty? Try your best?” Hood says. “These values help set the stage for when things are going well, your kids are arguing about a rule, or when you need to address a behavior. It’s the framework.”  

Prioritize Healthy Communication 

Fred Rogers said it well, “Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable.” Fostering a healthy mindset in families starts with creating an environment that’s open to communication and connection. There are a few ways to do that.  

Validate Emotions 

When someone in our family has high emotions, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. When this happens, we may think that telling our kids “You’re fine!” or “Go outside to blow off steam” is supportive, but it can lead to children and teens feeling misunderstood. Acknowledging each family member’s feelings without judgment is a pillar of health. “I see you’re frustrated, and that’s OK. I’m here if you need me,” is more constructive than dismissing worries or asking them to leave. Validation doesn’t necessarily mean agreement, but it opens a door to understanding and connection. 

Be Consistent 

When we engage, it’s helpful to establish a pattern of consistent communication where everyone, regardless of age, feels heard. “Purposefully taking time to connect with one another and check in on each other is super helpful,” Hood says. This can mean communicating in the car, via text message, over dinner or before bedtime. Find what works for your family. Doing this can help you address issues when they’re small and manageable and avoid larger crises.   

It’s also helpful to keep consistent rules and expectations in the home. When kids don’t know what to expect, it can lead to anxiety. Clear and regular communication can help them feel safe.  

Be Present, Not Perfect 

Because the Internet has given us access to pristine images of other people’s family life as well as advice from every expert under the sun, we can feel like we’ll never do it right. “If you’re overwhelmed as a parent, realize you don’t need to do things perfectly,” says Laura Welch, licensed mental health counselor and founder of Free Clear Mind Therapy in Fishers. “Every parent who has ever parented did so learning as they went.”  

Welch suggests we should cherish the unplanned moments. “Many parents believe they need to advise their children and teach them wisdom. Of course that’s important, but listening to them and entering into their world, understanding the games they play and the ideas they’re contemplating is much more effective than trying to give them speeches and advice,” she says.  

Recognize When to Get Professional Help 

Prioritizing family mental health is an ongoing process of engagement, reflection and action. So, how do we know when it’s time to seek professional help for someone we love? Among other signs, Hood and Welch say to look for sudden changes in behavior, mood changes lasting more than two weeks, worsening grades, or veiled or outright comments about hurting themselves or others. “Humans are good at trying to solve problems, so if you’ve tried or you don’t even know where to start, seeking help may be just what you need,” Hood says. 

If you or a family member needs professional help, there are a wide-range of in-person and online therapy options available in the Indy area. If finances are a barrier, many therapists offer sliding-scale fees based on income. For online resources, check out the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) at 

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