News for North Texas
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
On Our Minds is the name of KERA's mental health news initiative. The station began focusing on the issue in 2013, after the mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. Coverage is funded in part by the Donna Wilhelm Family Fund and Cigna.

How To Nurture Your Child's Mental Health

Young female school psychologist having serious conversation with smart little boy at her office.

Parents usually keep watch on their child’s physical health. But they may not pay as much attention to mental health unless a specific problem has been diagnosed. A Dallas-area expert believes monitoring a child’s mental health is something you have to do each day.

Dr. Nicholas Westers is a clinical psychologist at Children’s Health and an associate professor at UT Southwestern Medical Center. 

Interview Highlights

Nurturing A Child’s Health

It's more focused on how their child thinks, feels and behaves in the interconnection between those three. They're going to want to be able to help their child identify and articulate how their child is feeling. Even more importantly than that is to be able to respond to their child's nonverbal emotional cues in order to give their child the comfort and security to be able to articulate and identify with words their feelings to their parents.

Allow Your Child To Experience Distress And Failure

A lot of parents don't want to see their children in distress, but sometimes allowing our children to struggle in areas can help them develop a healthy sense of self confidence, of self control. And self efficacy. Meaning they will start to believe in themselves when they're going to take on a difficult challenge.

Boredom Can Be A Good Thing

A lot of parents worry that their children are not busy enough or they're not having anything to do and so they start to say, "Mom, Dad, I'm bored." That's understandable, but that's also a time for them to learn how to engage their creative self.

Provide Structure

In an unpredictable world, especially like we have right now, having a sense of structure and predictability can really provide a sense of security and mental health safety for children. They may not know what's going to happen in the world next. But they can predict at least when they're going to have breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack, when they're going to have play time, when they're gonna have bedtime story time.

Parents Need To Set A Good Example

Being able to model for our children how to respond to uncomfortable emotions are big. For some parents who may struggle with their own mental health disorders or mental health difficulties can be a great model for their child so that way their children can know it's okay to ask for help.

Do These And Other Steps Ensure A Mentally Healthy Child?

Absolutely not. Even if none of these are followed, there's a good chance our kids are still going to be okay, but we want to make sure we increase those chances as much as we can. And so how we model, how we talk about mental health and being attuned and helping our children learn how to identify, articulate, and respond to their emotions in a healthy way, sets them up for a healthy developmental trajectory into adulthood.



Got a tip? Email Sam Baker at You can follow Sam on Twitter @srbkera.

KERA News is made possible through the generosity of our members. If you find this reporting valuable, consider making a tax-deductible gifttoday. Thank you.

Sam Baker is KERA's senior editor and local host for Morning Edition. The native of Beaumont, Texas, also edits and produces radio commentaries and Vital Signs, a series that's part of the station's Breakthroughs initiative. He also was the longtime host of KERA 13’s Emmy Award-winning public affairs program On the Record. He also won an Emmy in 2008 for KERA’s Sharing the Power: A Voter’s Voice Special, and has earned honors from the Associated Press and the Public Radio News Directors Inc.