If you or your kids have hit some speed bumps along the way, there are many things you can to do check in on yourself and those you love. Here are actionable steps you can take to boost mental wellness, foster emotional openness, and find joy in the midst of uncertainty.
First, acknowledge that mental health is just as important as physical health.
The recently published Protecting Youth Mental Health: The U.S. Surgeon General’s Advisory calls attention to this. It says to “Recognize that mental health is an essential part of overall health. Mental health conditions are real, common, and treatable, and people experiencing mental health challenges deserve support, compassion, and care, not stigma and shame. Mental health is no less important than physical health. And that must be reflected in how we communicate about and prioritize mental health.” (Read the full report here.)
Then, open the lines of communication with your kids.
While doing so, it’s helpful to validate their feelings and avoid judgment. You can create a safe space by relating to them and offering empathy. Be curious and listen to all they have to say.
Segue into these conversations in calm moments when you aren’t needed elsewhere. Perhaps you ask them to go on a walk or join them in their favorite activity.
Practice modeling behavior for your kids.
Our kids notice how we handle adversity and how we take care of ourselves. Both parent and child will benefit when the caretaker prioritizes their own mental wellness and physical health. Feel your feelings, utilize downtime to recharge and unwind, and hold healthy boundaries in both your professional and personal life.
Spark Joy as a Family with Fun Activities
Creating a persistent space for love and bonding gives your kids a strong foundation to lean on when they go out into the world.
Get outdoors together, kickstart a family dance party, experiment in the kitchen, engage in each other’s hobbies, and serve others as a family.
Watch out for signs your kids may be struggling.
According to Dr. Mona Delahooke, child psychologist and author of Beyond Behaviors and Brain-Body Parenting, “A child’s challenging or confusing behaviors are often (subconscious) communication.” These behaviors could be a response to how much stress they are currently experiencing as well as their psychological state. Look out for signs and seek help when needed.
This information serves as a conversation starter for families but be sure to reach out to your family physician and/or school counselor for any mental health advice.
Additional Family Resources
Child Mind Institute Covid & Kids Mental Health
CDC Mental Health Parental Resources Kit
This story originally appeared in the Fall 2022 Issue of KIWI magazine. Read the issue.