Self-care is a topic we’re all familiar with after more than two years of living in a global pandemic, but conditions such as anxiety and depression are still on the rise — and adults aren’t the only ones experiencing these mental and emotional challenges.
According to key findings from Mental Health America (MHA), 10.6 percent of young people living in the U.S. suffer from severe major depression, and just over 15 percent of youths experienced at least one depressive episode over the past year. Moreover, over 60 percent of young people with depression are not receiving treatment from a mental health professional.
As a parent, it’s important to talk to your children about self-care and mental health — even when doing so feels awkward or uncomfortable. The Essential Creative‘s regular guest blogger Kris Louis offers some guidance in the sections below.
Good mental health doesn’t necessarily mean living without any sadness or negativity in your daily life. Rather, it means you’re able to express your feelings and emotions; care for yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally; and maintain healthy relationships with friends, family, colleagues, and romantic partners. Poor mental health, on the other hand, often disrupts your daily life and affects your sleep, eating patterns, personal relationships, and self-esteem.
Many people will experience situational depression or anxiety following various life events such as a job loss, divorce, or death of a loved one, but these episodes alone are not signs of poor mental health. These negative feelings and emotions are a normal part of life and a natural response to stress, grief, trauma, and loss.
Talking to Your Children About Mental Health
As a parent to one or more children, it’s important to talk to your kids about the differences between good and bad mental health, and encourage them to identify and express their emotions in a calm manner. Here are a few tips and strategies parents can try:
- Help your child to build an emotional vocabulary so she’s better able to identify and name new feelings and emotions as they arise.
- Stay calm and cool whenever you’re upset to be a good role model for your child.
- Show your kids how to calm down when they’re upset (e.g. meditate, exercise, laugh, breathe deeply, call a friend, walk in nature, or use essential oils).
- Print copies of NAMI’s Meet Little Monster Coloring and Activity Book to help your kids express their emotions in a healthy way.
- Validate their feelings. Let your kids know it’s perfectly normal to feel anxious, sad, or worried at times.
If you have concerns about your child’s mental health, don’t be afraid to seek help from a child and adolescent psychiatrist, psychologist, or social worker. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), play therapy, talk therapy, and family therapy can all be helpful for children and teens.
Self-Care Activities for Kids and Their Parents
There are a number of things you and your children can do for self-care and positive mental health, from using meditation apps like Calm, Insight Timer, and Happify, to practicing yoga as a family. Websites like Yoga With Adriene offer free online classes for kids and adults, or you could check out YouTube channels such as Cosmic Kids Yoga and Bari Koral.
Attending concerts, musicals, and sporting events are some other great ways to relax and unwind with your children, especially if you’ve all been cooped up for too long and could use a fun family outing. And if your favorite performer or sports team isn’t nearby, you could make a full weekend out of it.
Ticketing websites make it easy to catch a show on Broadway or take in a Yankees game with the fam at a discounted rate, and you can filter seats by rating, date, view, and price range. Interactive seating charts are sometimes available as well so you can be sure you’re getting the best possible views during your weekend getaway. Some other self-care activities to try include art and cooking classes, family-friendly comedy shows, bike rides in nature, journaling, swimming, and picnicking.
Whether you’re young or old, practicing self-care is essential for positive health and well-being throughout all stages of life. And by teaching your children the importance of self-care and mental health while they’re still young, you’ll set them up for lifelong happiness and resilience.
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Other Blog Posts from Kris
Kris Louis is a mom to two rambunctious boys. Her oldest is 11 and her youngest is 8. A former advertising copywriter, she recently created ParentingWithKris.com, where she puts her skills to work writing about the trials and tribulations of parenting. Kris, her husband, and her two boys live in Durham, NC.
Read her other guests posts by picking from the carousel below.
Self-Care and Mental Resource Recommendations from The Essential Creative
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- Pocket Full of Rocks: Daddy Talks About Depression by Yair Engelberg (author) and MacKenzie Haley (illustrator)
- Why are You So Sad? A Child’s Book about Parental Depression by Beth Andrews (author) & Nicole Wong (author, illustrator)
- A Year of Self-Care: Daily Practices and Inspiration for Caring for Yourself (A Year of Daily Reflections) by Dr. Zoe Shaw
- Self-Care Gift Set for Kids from Just My Style