Parents: Make time for your kids' mental health

Mental health awareness is important for people of all ages, including children. In the time of COVID-19 when we're asked to stay indoors being in-tune with the mental wellness of our children is even more important. Try these strategies with your kids.

[3 MIN READ]

Mental health seems to be in the news a lot these days. Very recently, Oregon passed a new law allowing students to take mental health days to cope with their mental health conditions, just as they would any physical health condition.

For kids and teenagers alike, the pressures of growing up, balancing schoolwork and navigating relationships have always been difficult. But now, to top it off, there are things like school shootings and active shooter drills that can cause additional anxiety and take their toll on kids of all ages. 

Although it can be tough to have a conversation about mental health and anxiety at home, ignoring it can make things worse, or even create more problems. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports the prevalence of depression and anxiety has  increased over time in children ages 6-17, growing from 5.4 percent in 2003 to 8.4 percent in 2012.

Starting the conversation now can make it easier for you and your family to get used to opening up and dealing with the tough topics.

#Work2BeBeWell

As part of the #Work2BeWell initiative, powered by Providence Health & Services, over 10,000 high school students were engaged to address and destigmatize mental health issues and find ways to “be well” with a support system in place.

Through the Talk2BeWell podcast series, Robin Henderson, PsyD., talks with teens about the “real” topics and how to cope with:

Anxiety about school shootings and active shooter drills

Teen Relationships

As part of the Well Being Trust, a national foundation dedicated to advancing the mental, social and spiritual health of the nation, #Work2BeWell focuses solely on kids, tweens and teens. These resources can help give you the framework to talk with your kids to address question and concerns about mental health.

Tips for Parents

Starting the conversation (and keeping it going) can be challenging at first but will become easier over time as you establish open lines of communication. Here are some tips for parents to help you talk about the tough topics. Encouraging your children to not only talk to you, but also to reach out to counselors and other trusted adults can be beneficial as they build their network of support.

Be around to talk. Maintain openness by being available to them. Spend time in communal areas of the house and leave your technology behind.

Eat dinner together whenever possible. Many studies have shown the mental and physical benefits of eating together as a family. Children are more likely to communicate, learn how to problem-solve, feel connected to their loved ones and eat a healthier diet.

Regardless of age, we all need to take mental health breaks from time to time. It’s a form of much needed self-care. 

Don’t shy away from mental health days. Regardless of age, we all need to take mental health breaks from time to time. It’s a form of much needed self-care. While this has been a trend in office culture for a while, some school districts have recently started to allow students to take sick days as “mental health days.” With laws being passed like the one in Oregon that was championed by a group of student activists and backed by Providence Health & Services, it’s possible other states will follow.

Model finding time for meditation and mindfulness. Many studies have shown how meditation can help relieve stress and anxiety, but it’s not just for adults. Kids can benefit, too. If your kids don’t have meditation or mindfulness instruction at school, consider making it a part of your bedtime routine. You could start with basic deep breathing exercises or try a meditation app, book or video.

Make sure exercise is in the schedule. Exercise is a great way to fight depression and anxiety because it helps release chemicals into the body called endorphins, which can help relieve pain and boost feelings of happiness. If possible, strive for at least 60 minutes of activity every day.

Even with these solutions, your kids may still face some mental health hurdles from time to time — we all do. Just remember that you don’t have to solve every problem. Being there to listen and support your kids is what’s most important.

Find a doctor

If you’re stumped, don’t be afraid to talk to your school guidance counselor, teachers or your pediatrician about concerns you may have. You can find a Providence doctor using our provider directory. Or, you can search for a primary care doctor in your area.

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Are you making time for #mentalhealth? Share your thoughts about #mentalhealthawareness #mentalhealthmatters and #work2bewell @psjh 

Resources

Well Being Trust

#Work2BeWell

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This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.

 

About the Author

The Providence Children's Health Team is focused on providing insights and clinically-backed advice to help parents take care of their children. From tips on raising respectful boys and girls to immunizations for babies to planning for the teen years, our clinical experts offer an informed perspective to help you and your kids live healthy lives.

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