This past year has no doubt been difficult for our children. The big changes that have come with the coronavirus pandemic, like shifting to online school and having less social interactions, can be especially hard on kids. In this time, it’s incredibly important that we look after our child’s mental health. Here are five tips to help:
1- Create Consistency Where You Can
Children need to feel stability and security as they grow up. In a time full of uncertainties, try to create consistency at home however you can. Establish a routine that your children can stick to and rely on. And create consistent family time, whether that’s going on a walk in the park each Sunday or scheduling family dinner the same hour each night.
It’s also important to try to be consistently present for children. This means meeting their needs whenever they are feeling scared, anxious or sad. Create a habit of frequently checking in with them, allowing them to acknowledge their feelings and helping them to work through them.
2- Teach Stress Management
There are some things that we will never be able to shield our kids from, and stress is one of them. Since stress is inevitable for everyone, it’s smart to teach our kids how to effectively manage it. Suggest useful tools to them, like writing their thoughts down in a journal or reaching out to talk to someone they trust. You can even initiate age-appropriate discussions about current events to let your child know that it’s okay to talk about anything that’s on their mind.
3- Establish Healthy Habits
Our children will feel more stability when they take part in healthy habits. Make sure that you are covering the bases, so that your child has a balanced diet, good sleep schedule and an active lifestyle. Other healthy habits you might suggest for your child could be a breathing or mindfulness practice. Or suggest sharing your gratitude as a family once each day.
4- Help Build Their Self-Esteem
Helping to boost your child’s self-esteem will also boost their mental health. Practice providing genuine, realistic praise for your child’s efforts. Also help your child develop healthy self-talk that is rooted in positivity and acceptance. Being there for your child and rooting them on can make an incredible impact on their self-esteem and overall wellbeing.
5- Don’t Forget Your Own Wellbeing
Whether we realize it or not, children can pick up a lot from our energy and behavior. They learn a lot just by watching us. That’s why it’s important to set a good example through maintaining our own mental health. Managing our kids and work, among other obligations, can be overwhelming at times. But it’s crucial that we also take the time to prioritize our own wellbeing so that we don’t unload all of our stress onto our kids. Remember to take part in your own self-care and take care of your wellbeing too.
If you have tried out these tips and still notice your child’s mental health is struggling, it may be a sign to seek out further help. You can reference these warning signs that your child may need more support. Also be sure to check out the CDC’s parental resource toolkit to help ensure your child’s social, emotional and mental wellbeing. A change of your child’s mood or behavior that lasts more than two weeks may be a sign to seek out professional help. Oregon Counseling offers therapy services for children, as well as family counseling options.