Our children and teenagers, like us, are suffering from the Covid-19 pandemic and the civil unrest that has shaken our country. These crises have taken a toll on young people, even though they and their immediate families have remained well. Our youth need our help now more than ever, from the anger over the police killings of countless unarmed Black people and the racism that resulted, to the sorrow of missing important life milestones and the fear they must feel from all of the bad news out there.
Many of our children are naturally sad and grieving, but health professionals are also concerned about long-term mental health problems. Although children are always stronger, wiser, and more resilient than we give them credit for, their mental health must be taken seriously. Here are some ideas about how you can help your children.
Let Your Kids Be Sad and Grieve
It’s normal as a parent to want to keep your child safe from harm. Denying them or attempting to divert them from their sadness, on the other hand, is doing them a great disservice. According to Sandra Pisano, PsyD, AltaMed’s Director of Behavioral Health, this will make your child less resilient, making it more difficult for them to bounce back from future depression and disappointment.
Participate in creative and playful activities with your child to help them grow this vital resiliency. Dr. Pisano explains that “creativity and play activate the “pleasure” and “calming” areas of the brain, which avoids or decreases sad and fearful reactions. You might suggest that your child draw or write a story about how they’re feeling. This will help them to be more creative while still helping them to process their thoughts honestly.
Communicate Honestly but Optimistically
Even if your first impulse is to shield your children from the harsh reality of current affairs, you should be aware that this might backfire. Your children are aware of what is going on to some extent, and if they aren’t, they are more likely imagining things to be much worse than they are.
Communicate with them openly and often, including conversations about the implications of recent events, especially if your family or friends have been directly impacted. Be honest and provide reasons to be optimistic, such as how individuals and groups around the country have banded together to give support to one another through these trying times.
Introduce Them to Mindfulness
Perhaps you’ve heard about mindfulness from a coworker or a social media celebrity. It’s the art of being present: slowing down, concentrating on one thing at a time, and living in the moment.
Mindfulness can help children cope with anxiety and negative feelings, but it also has a variety of other advantages, such as assisting them in making healthy choices and increasing their self-esteem. They can also use mindfulness for the rest of their lives if they practice it at a young age.
Limit Their Intake of News
We’re also watching more news than ever before, thanks to social media and being at home all the time, and many of us are finding it to be detrimental to our mental health.
Limiting computer and screen time is a convenient way to reduce news consumption. Consider establishing device-free zones or periods, such as at the dinner table or an hour before bedtime. Create time for your family to watch or read the news and then discuss it. Try to be open and frank about the news while still stressing the positive points, and talk about what you can do to keep your family secure, prosperous, and connected during this difficult period.
Keep Providing a Healthy Environment
Maintaining a caring, healthy atmosphere is one of the best ways to support your child.
- Assist them in developing order and routine in their everyday lives.
- Continue to cook nutritious, balanced meals, even if you want to spoil them or give in to demands for fast food – good nutrition will make a huge difference in their moods (as well as your own).
- Keeping them well necessitates sticking to their vaccination schedule. This is more critical than ever because many children have failed to receive their vaccinations, putting your child at risk as schools reopen.
- Children need more sleep than adults – even adolescents need 8-9 hours of sleep a night – so assist them in getting a good night’s sleep.
Get Them Help If They Need It
Depression, anxiety, and other mental health problems exist, and if left untreated, they can have severe implications for children. Consult your pediatrician if you suspect anything is wrong. They might be able to provide you with more information or refer you to a Behavioral health professional.