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 impossible to get rid of our daily responsibilities. It is possible to give yourself time to do things that rejuvenate you.  

Start with making sure you have your basics of food, water, sunshine, and sleep. Then give yourself time to rest and recharge, which can be as simple as savoring your coffee, taking a brisk walk, or connecting with a friend. “Making yourself a priority isn’t selfish,” says Courtney Lowe Williams, resident therapist at Thriveworks. “It’s essential to be able to better handle the ups and downs of parenting with grace and resiliency.”  

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. Do you value spending time together? Honesty? Trying your best? These values are the framework for when things are going well, your kids are arguing about a rule, or when you need to address a behavior.  

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. “Saying ‘It’ll be fine!’ or ‘Just go outside to blow off some steam” can be supportive, but can also lead to children not feeling understood,” says Samantha Harris, a licensed therapist at LifeStance Health in Cincinnati.  

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 

It’s helpful to establish a pattern of consistent communication where everyone, regardless of age, feels heard. “Family bonds are strengthened through quality time spent together, healthy communication and mutual support for one another on a regular basis,” says Williams. This can mean finding creative ways to regularly connect. Find what works for your family, whether that’s connecting in the car, via text message, over dinner, or before bedtime. 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. “Inconsistency can lead to anxiety,” Harris explains. Clear and regular communication helps family members 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. The truth is, all parents learn as they go.  

Kids need parents who are present and engaged in their lives. “Younger children develop bonds through play time and creative activities,” Williams says. “For older children, it’s important to validate their feelings and provide spaces where they feel safe. Having teens can be challenging, but bonds are fostered when you encourage their growing independence and offer an empathetic ear to their concerns and ever-changing perspectives.” 

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, Williams and Harris say to look for changes in behavior, isolation, change in sleeping habits, mood changes lasting more than two weeks, worsening grades, or veiled or outright comments about hurting themselves or others.   

If you plan to approach a loved one who needs help, “it’s important to lead with empathy and express care and concern while offering support and assistance,” Williams says. 

If you or a family member needs professional help, there are a wide-range of in-person and online therapy options available in Cincinnati and the surrounding 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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