As the days turn into weeks, the mental health effects stemming from the coronavirus outbreak and social distancing are starting to be felt more acutely by the entire family – especially children. There are tools you can use to help support your child’s mental health during this stressful and uncertain time.
Remember: Managing your child’s mental health starts with you. Be sure you are modeling good self-care behaviors and staying mentally healthy by maintaining a regular sleep schedule, eating nutritious foods and getting daily exercise.
Next, how can we help our kids? Here are five self-care habits to encourage during this time:
1. Keep a journal
This unprecedented situation may have children may be experiencing new feelings, such as fear, anxiety, uncertainty or frustration. Remind your child it is OK to feel this way. Start each day with a few minutes to acknowledge and reflect on your feelings. End the day by jotting down (or sharing aloud) three things you are grateful for. In a time where it can be very easy to focus on what we DON’T have (freedom to play with friends) it is useful to shift our mindset to what we DO have (toys and games to play with).
2. Schedule quiet time
More time at home probably means more time spent in front of a screen, whether its TV and video games or virtual schoolwork. Give their brains a break and schedule some quiet time into their day to let their minds reset and recharge. (Time alone also gives parents a break to do the same!) Give them the freedom to choose how they’d like to spend it, maybe doing a puzzle, building LEGO creations, reading a book, or coloring. We suggest the 5-2-1-0 Healthy Choices Count! coloring pages and activity sheets!
3. Practice mindfulness
Mindfulness means to become more aware or present in the current moment. Practicing mindfulness gives kids (and adults) the tools to better focus, regulate their emotions and manage stress. Try these free, online resources that will guide your kids through various mindfulness activities, including movement and breath:
4. Come up with creative solutions
Many kids are struggling with situations out of their control causing them to feel overwhelmed. They cannot see their friends. They cannot go to school. They cannot do their regular extracurricular activities. Tackle one problem at a time and come up with creative solutions to help your child feel more in control and at ease. Here’s an example:
Problem: Your child’s basketball camp was cancelled.
- Practice drills at home together as a family.
- Set goals for certain skills and work to accomplish them.
- Send videos of your skills to a coach or mentor and ask for feedback.
- Watch old March Madness games online and critique the plays.
- Set up a Face Time call with friends from basketball team.
5. Healthy body = healthy mind!
When you exercise your body releases natural mood boosters called endorphins. Try one of our favorite ways to exercise at home or simply take a family walk outside. Fresh air increases your energy levels and has been shown to help ward off depression. You also need to fuel your body correctly! Fruits and vegetables support growth, development and optimal immune function in children. At meal times, try to fill half of your plate with fruits and vegetables. Try one of these kid-friendly and healthy lunch ideas!
5-2-1-0 Healthy Choices Count!
5-2-1-0 Healthy Choices Count! is a health-focused movement for kids that’s under the nationally recognized program, 5-2-1-0. It all starts by encouraging them to eat and play the right way.
This proven, scientific method helps keep kids healthy by focusing on the importance of four habits:
- 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables
- 2 hours or less of screen time (television, computer, video games, phones, etc.)
- 1 hour or more of physical activity
- 0 (or reduce) sugar-sweetened beverages – drink more water!
To access more free resources that support healthy habits, click here.