Health Minute; Mental Health Support for Kids
School is out for the summer. As mental health concerns among children have been increasing, many parents wonder what schools will look like in the fall and how they can set their kids up for success to ensure their wellbeing. Chad Lennon, MD, with Adventist HealthCare shares how parents can support their kids to help them find their new normal.
How can we support our child’s mental health?
First, notice how you feel as a parent. Even if we’re not verbalizing it, our energy is felt by our kids. Pay attention to your worries, fatigue and stress. We are different people now due to COVID-19 and 15 months is a long time for a child’s development.
Social interaction and activities support child development. Phase in events and commitments slowly and be considerate about which activities to NOT add back in to keep your stress levels lower. Pay attention if there is irritability or resistance with your child. We all need to take time to reevaluate what we, our kids and our families need in order to move forward.
What steps can we take this summer to ease our child back into “normal” life in the fall?
Use the summer to relax and recalibrate. Children need play, movement and fun. If your child isn’t emotionally sound when they return to school in the fall, they won’t be able to effectively learn. Sending them to school emotionally sound will help them retain the information they are learning.
Here are some other tips.
· Read with your child. Instill positive associations with it, but there’s no need to push.
· Be mindful of their social media use. Social media has been associated with a decline in mental health among adolescents.
· Ease them into play dates and summer camp. Recognize and understand if some separation anxiety comes up.
· Help build confidence and resilience to face new stressors. Don’t focus on how to keep your child away from stressors, but how to overcome them.
What if we notice our kids are more anxious or pessimistic?
Part of parenting is helping your child build their emotional intelligence. One way we can do this is by supporting your child in identifying and naming emotions they are experiencing. When they are overwhelmed and want to lash out and act up, putting a name to it will help. Emotions drive behavior. If you adopt an attitude of genuinely wanting to understand those emotions and saving space to really listen to what they’re feeling, you’ll be surprised how problematic behavior will lessen.