In the past two years, emotional well-being for kids has been a hushed topic. With the end of restrictions in most countries around the world, people are starting to look at the consequences they have had on our children.
Without going into a discussion of the necessity and efficiency of the different restrictions, it has been confirmed they have affected our children’s mental health. Let’s take a look at some constructive ways we can do something about it.
Restrictions’ impact on mental health
Lockdowns, school closures, mask rules and social distancing in schools, constant stress, fear of germs, the inability to see facial expressions, and breathing difficulties from playing with a mask…. Many restrictions have directly impacted our children’s daily lives in the past two years.
Although we can hope that the worst is behind us, we must look forward to what we can do to repair some of the damage.
The list of adverse effects of the restrictions is long. It includes a rise in depression, anxiety disorders, and social phobia. In addition, learning has greatly been disrupted, with social and emotional development being impacted. It has even impacted babies, with a study showing that 6 months olds during the pandemic had lower motor and cognitive skills than normal.
How to tell if your child’s emotional health is suffering?
Being so busy with work, family, and sometimes our own stress and anxiety, it’s not always easy to spot when something is wrong. Don’t feel guilty about it. It’s not always evident, especially when our kids don’t know themselves that they are suffering.
The first thing to do is to observe your child for cues, whether or not they are stressed. See if their behaviour and mood are different from normal. If it’s momentary because they had a bad day or are tired, that’s nothing to worry about. If the change is persistent for over a week directly address the issue with them.
If you suspect your child’s mental health has been suffering, ask them about it. What is worrying them? Is there anything on their mind? Is something scaring them? Create a safe space for them to share. You can do so by listening and asking questions.
If you don’t have answers to some of their questions or anguishes, tell them that you will figure it out together. Some things are out of our control and that can be difficult to understand for kids. However, feeling that they are listened to and being able to express their anxiety will help tremendously.
If your child is very young, use drawing and physical communication. For example, ask your child to draw or show with their facial expression how they felt in different situations (at school, wearing a mask…).
Seek a child therapist
Getting support from a therapist can be helpful for both your child and you. Therapists have been very busy with the increase in mental health issues among children and will understand how to address issues.
From exploring emotional difficulties and expressing them, to finding coping mechanisms, a therapist will help your child exteriorize their issues. As a parent, you can also ask questions and sometimes be present during sessions. Just keep in mind that trust is important for the therapeutic alliance between a patient and their therapist. So if your child is a teen, it is most likely that the sessions will be without parental presence.
Do make sure that the therapist you go to is a good fit. It’s ok to consult a few before deciding on the one that can establish the best rapport with your child.
4 tips for promoting the emotional wellbeing of children
Just like for adults, there are some simple ways we can help the emotional wellbeing of children. Here are a few ideas on how:
Create a routine
Our lives were shaken in all directions, having to adapt to learning from home or having our usual activities on hold. Yet, kids feel a sense of security from having a reliable routine.
Now that school is back, create morning and evening routines that will help your kids feel good. Prioritise, self-care, physical activity, and sleep, are three things that are important for the emotional wellbeing of children.
Self-care can take different forms depending on your child’s age and preferences. Eating well, spending more time with creative activities, relaxing with some music, learning to meditate, reading a book… There’s a multitude of ways kids can practise self-care.
Moving your body is great for your physical and mental health! Make it a point for your kids to get some movement every day. From playing at the park to learning a sport, their wellbeing needs to be active. If they can be outside in the fresh air while they get some exercise, it’s even better.
Limit screen time
There’s a big difference between creating and consuming. When we are scrolling on social media or watching cartoons we are consuming information rather than using our brains.
Too much screen time has been linked to attention deficit issues and lowered self-confidence in children and teens. If they are teens, don’t just take away their devices. Show them how it affects them so that they can become more self-aware and be able to regulate their consumption. It can also help to know that teens are increasingly shunning social media.
I hope this discussion on the emotional wellbeing of children has been useful and remember you can only do your best for your kids. So don’t add more pressure on yourself. The perfect parent doesn’t exist.
Want more? Check out my article holistic health for children.
Until next time, Tania xx