Between COVID and social media, kids are dealing with a lot on their mental plate. The Wall Street Journal recently published an article about how Facebook knows that Instagram is detrimental for teen's mental health, particularly in girls. Highlights Magazine says about half of their monthly letters from kids are about COVID-- not about the pain of wearing a mask, but about feeling alone, missing their friends, and worrying about their families.
As parents, friends, and family it can often feel overwhelming to know what to do to help those kids in our lives. We may not be sure how to start the conversation, what they are developmentally aware of and able to talk about, or even what exactly they are struggling with.
We've compiled some great resources and tips for you to take that first step in helping someone you love (yourself included!).
Kid’s anxiety can manifests in a variety of ways-- stomach aches, lack of sleep, isolation, and high or low energy. Encourage them to talk about their feelings, to you, a teacher, a friend, a doctor, whomever they feel comfortable with.
Check in with them-- ask how they are doing. You can start with general questions. If that isn't getting you anywhere, get a bit more specific. "How are you?" can work, but sometimes they need the extra push to know that you are really listening and care about them. "I noticed that you seemed upset after your playdate the other day. What to talk about it?" might open some new doors.
Don't feel like you need to make the conversation a big deal. Try to make it comfortable and open. Maybe while you take a walk or get ice cream together. Consider alternatives to talking like writing or drawing together.
Listen when they talk. Don't think ahead to what you are going to say, don't think about the grocery list or work. Really be present and listen. If you aren't in the right head space to do this, take a breather and approach the subject when you are.
Parent yourself. Children see how we react to situations and learn from us. If you are feeling angry and yelling, it is OK to give yourself a time out. If you are exhausted and stressed from work, it is OK to send yourself to nap time. By openly taking care of your needs, your children will learn to do the same and learn to respect when other people need a break. See below for other resources for parents.
Just being there is enough, even when you don't know what to say. Being supportive is usually about the smallest of gestures that add up over time and signal that you care. Even if the gesture is small like a text or note in the lunchbox saying you’re thinking about them or how much you appreciate them, it matters.
This Is My Brave (https://thisismybrave.org/) uses storytelling in a variety of forms to help bring awareness and empowerment to those suffering from and recovering from mental illness and addition.
NoStigmas (https://www.nostigmas.org/) works to ensure that no one faces mental health challenges alone through ally training, workshops, and other programs.
Seize the Awkward (https://seizetheawkward.org/) provides tools to help facilitate conversations around mental health.
A Kids Book About... (https://akidsco.com/) sells kid-friendly (ages 5/6+) books about a variety of topics-- anxiety, racism, emotions, gender and many more.
StompOUT Bullying (https://www.stompoutbullying.org/) is the nations leading nonprofit dedicated to changing the culture for kids by reducing and preventing bullying, cyberbullying, and educating against homophobia, LGBTQ+ discrimination, racism and hatred. All profits of our Brave & Kind T-Shirt are donated to StompOUT Bullying.
The CDC (Center for Disease Control & Prevention) also has great resources and studies on children's mental health. https://www.cdc.gov/childrensmentalhealth/index.html
Take some self-care time-- a walk by yourself, a yoga class, a cup of coffee on the deck, a quiet drive to the store. Even little moments can help a lot. I've started doing "Self Care Fridays" where I spend the morning doing something for my mental health-- a massage, a haircut, yoga, meditation, a walk, reading, sketching... anything that helps me recenter and reset.
Seek out therapy-- being able to talk to someone about what you and your family is going through is important. While it is great to be able to talk to your spouse and friends, sometimes you need a bit more than that. There are lots of great therapy types and resources out there, including BetterHelp (linked below). I've recently started using BetterHelp and it is great! I can get a quick 30 minute chat with therapist-- no drive time, waiting in traffic, worrying if kids are being loud in the background, or even getting out of my jammies. These quick sessions have helped me create new goals and outline paths to get there.
Find a community-- find your pod, your people, your tribe... being surrounded by potential help and resources gives you options in times of need. It could be made of a variety of people: friends, baby sitters, mentors, your local barista that makes the perfect latte. Know who you can count on in times of need, and also be there and supportive for them in their times of need.
Cut yourself some slack-- parenting is HARD. Adulting is HARD. No one has all the answers, no one is doing it perfectly (despite what their Insta may look like).
Articles and resources for parents:
BetterHelp offers online therapy for adults and teens, as well as a variety of other resources. Therapy can be done via chat, video call, or in-person.
We hope this helps you and your loved ones! Know that we are here for you and are open to talk anytime!
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