The last few years have been hard on people of all ages. Most adults understand the impact of the pandemic on their mental health. But how is the stress of a global crisis affecting kids’ mental health?
Kids’ brains develop rapidly. Living through the pandemic has deprived them of living their normal lives and experiencing a range of social interactions. Because we are still dealing with the pandemic, it’s hard to say how these cultural forces will impact today’s children long-term, but the outlook isn’t good.
UNICEF reports that at least 1.6 billion kids worldwide have lost some education during the pandemic. Aside from that, many children report symptoms of depression and have had their lives upended by lockdowns and other pandemic protocols.
Children’s mental health is important in any year. But while the pandemic continues to affect our lives, it’s especially important to ensure their needs are met. Here are 5 ways to help ensure that children have the mental health support they need.
Have an Open Dialogue
It’s important to talk about mental health with your kids from an early age. As a society, we are still working toward ending the stigma of mental illness. It isn’t easy to open up a dialogue about mental health, but it’s important to be open about these issues so they aren’t perceived as taboo.
Talking about feelings and showing support when your child comes to you with their feelings is critical. If you dismiss their concerns, they will be less likely to come to you later when they are having problems. Being non-judgmental and supportive is key.
Limit News Exposure & Technology Use
Children now spend a large part of each day in front of a screen, whether to do schoolwork, socialize, watch TV, or play games. Now that most kids have on-demand internet access, they are more likely to use their devices excessively. During the pandemic, technology use among children skyrocketed, doubling at the beginning of the crisis.
In addition to the impact of all that screen time, there’s the mental health impact of the news cycle online. Constantly hearing about the pandemic, environmental disasters, and other news stories can have a negative impact on kids’ mental health. Many children have begun to feel anxious as a result of the unrelenting negativity of the news cycle.
There’s a difference between sheltering your children and limiting their exposure. It isn’t healthy for them to grow up with no concept of the problems in the world. However, overexposure to these realities can lead to issues like anxiety, depression, and other mental health concerns.
Practice Stress Management Techniques
Most people don’t learn how to handle stress in a healthy way. Whether your child is exhibiting symptoms of mental illness or not, it’s a good idea to introduce stress management techniques they can use for their entire lives.
Breathing techniques can be a great place to start. Children of almost any age can be taught to take deep breaths when they are feeling overwhelmed. There are different techniques that can help with problems like anxiety.
Meditation and yoga are also great management techniques you can practice with your kids. By teaching them about these kinds of wellness tools from an early age, you can help them deal with their emotions more effectively and regulate their mood.
Encourage Healthy Lifestyle Habits & Keep a Stable Routine
We all need to practice self-care in order to maintain good physical and mental health. Make sure your kids are eating enough healthy foods and staying hydrated. They should also be getting enough sleep each night. Children need more sleep than adults and using electronic devices too much can affect sleep patterns.
Kids also need to stay active. Exercise is important for both physical and mental health and can assist with mood regulation. It can be a struggle to encourage active play, especially during the colder months of the year, so one of the best things you can do is to make it fun and get involved yourself. Being a good role model will help kids embrace more active lifestyles.
Keeping a stable routine can also help with mental health. Kids are less likely to feel anxious if their schedules are predictable. This doesn’t mean you need to micromanage every second of the day, but it’s good to have set expectations and routines for activities like meals, homework, brushing teeth, and bedtime.
Get Help from a Professional
If you notice signs of mental illness in your child, it’s important to get help from a professional. Early intervention can be key for reducing the impact of mental illness on your child’s well-being. It can be intimidating to reach out to a mental health professional, but you may not be able to provide all the support your child needs.
Many parents feel like they failed somehow if their child has a mental illness. This is not at all true! If you are feeling guilty, it’s important to let that go so you can show up for your kids when they need you the most. We’re all having a tough time right now and there’s nothing wrong with asking for help!
Play Image from Pixabay
Guest Author Bio
With a Bachelor’s in Health Science along with an MBA, Sarah Daren has a wealth of knowledge within both the health and business sectors. Her expertise in scaling and identifying ways tech can improve the lives of others has led Sarah to be a consultant for a number of startup businesses, most prominently in the wellness industry, wearable technology and health education. She implements her health knowledge into every aspect of her life with a focus on making America a healthier and safer place for future generations to come.
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