Mental Health Mission: Checking in With Young Kids
Reena B. Patel (LEP, BCBA) Renowned parenting psychologist, board-certified behavior analyst, and author of Winnie & Her Worries.
For more than 20 years, Patel has had the privilege of working with families and children, supporting all aspects of education, mental health and positive wellness.
Patel shares, “as we are in the middle of Mental Health Awareness Month, it’s a good time to check in with our kids, really ask those questions, of ‘how are you?’ ‘What’s bothering you?’ and address situations you know may be stressful for them, “I know you have a lot of homework, how can I help?’ ‘I know everyone is counting on you at your game, how does that make you feel?’ ’
It’s so important to teach your kids skills to manage stress and how to teach your child how to cope with stress and worries. Reena shares some tools to help:
- As parents we need to show them ways they can cope. Even as young as 3, children should begin to learn techniques to navigate through everyday stressors.
- Remember it’s ok to over explain for extra reassurance during this time
- Be mindful of your child’s developmental age when sharing your response.
- When you have a young child, use concrete examples.
- It’s ok not to know. For example, be truthful that you do not know when this pandemic will end, but know that researchers, the government, scientists and doctors are all working together to make sure everyone is safe…
- Make sure you truly listen with intent. Validate and empathize. Use words such as I see, I hear that, you must be…. This shows your child you respect what they are going through.
- Use the word “Sometimes” this teaches us to be flexible and understand that yes, there might be a time frame given when we all can try and get back to normal, but in case that doesn’t happen by a set time, your child will be ready to adjust.
- Check in periodically about school. Check in with your child’s teacher to get ahead of any challenges your child is facing
Things to do to help mental health for kids
- Move – Get up and get moving
- Routine – Create a morning routine- structure helps alleviate the unknown
- Relax – Engage in a relaxing activity before bedtime
- Break from tech – Get off your screen 30 minutes before bed
- Rest and Sleep – Go to bed at the same time everyday, use a weighted blanket to sleep
- Release Negativity – Do a negative brain release of negative thoughts in your journal
- Worry box– write your worries on paper and place them in a closed box and tell yourself you will address it during the day at a designated time.
- CBT therapy to help you learn how to shift an reshape your thinking and how you react to stress
- Outdoor exercise– increases serotonin levels- mood booster
- Meditate (apps have 5 min meditation you can do at your desk)
- Challenge your negative thoughts when you wake up- Visualize two thought bubbles, one with a realistic outcome and one with an irritating one. What is more likely to happen- talk it out with your partner or spouse.
Click the Links Below for Mental Health Resources:
Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (Lifeline) at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or text the Crisis Text Line (text HELLO to 741741).
Both services are free and available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. All calls are confidential.
If you are in an emergency situation, dial 9-1-1.