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How to Care for Mental Health in Children

10 May 2021

Adults often wish they were young like children again so they can be carefree and free from stress and adult obligations. Many don’t even understand why kids these days can utter the words “stress, anxiety, depressed, exhausted, or frustrated” or that they feel nobody understands what they’re going through. But it’s different nowadays. No matter how much we don’t want to believe it, children can experience a whole new level of stress that we’ve been spared from a couple of decades ago. 

Truth is, even when we adults could not understand what kids mean nowadays and we feel it’s easier to dismiss them as bandwagoning or that it’s “all in your mind” thinking, we need to acknowledge the fact that this is how the stigma started a long time ago. When we try to tell our kids that what they’re feeling is no big deal compared to what we’re going through, we essentially tell them that we don’t care enough to at least let them understand and explore what they’re feeling. Mental fatigue is all too real for kids as young as toddlers to adolescents and teenagers.

How can you help your kids take care of their mental health without putting them in a position that will make them feel different or uncomfortable? These days most kids spend a good majority of their day on their tables playing games or staying online. This is not necessarily a sign that they’re detaching themselves from you, but rather, it’s a sign that they consider their workspace their sanctuary from the things they cannot control. So take advantage of that and encourage your kids to stay healthy in a manner that will not even feel like a chore.

Ask about their friends. Most kids socialize through social media and other platforms. They can spend hours online chatting or in video calls with friends without anything specific to discuss. Ask about how their friends are doing, and slowly try to find out if they’re feeling a little restless or could relate with how their friends are doing. One important tip: when you ask, genuinely ask, and remain engaged in the conversation. Most of the time, kids refrain from telling their parents or caregivers things because they feel they’ll be judged or dismissed as being petty. Do not scold them and keep an open mind when they start to open up. If they’re comfortable around you, you can even offer to say hi to their friends. You want to encourage them to maintain a good social life so they have a safe space to air out their thoughts.

Ask about the games they’re playing. If your kids are into gaming, take an interest (or at least try) in what they’re playing. You don’t need to learn how to play the actual game or even need to give it a try, sometimes when kids know that you’re interested to know what they’re in to is a way for them to feel valued. It’s an opportunity to bond, and even a morale booster for them to have the chance to explain something to you that only they can do. Like a switch of roles where the adults usually teach kids, but now, you’ll be on the other end, trying to learn their interests. And if you get interested, you’ll even have the advantage to reap the bonding opportunity to play with them at times.

Help them get organized. If their main source of stress is the amount of work they need to do for academics, give them away to understand and sort through the tasks without barking orders. You can teach them to create a to-do board so they can list the tasks according to priority. Encourage them to put in even the smallest of tasks and cross them off the list. A sense of accomplishment is healthy no matter how small it is. Most of the time, kids will feel inadequate and even discouraged from moving forward because they feel they’re not accomplishing anything. With a visual tracker, they’ll have a sense of progress. 

Go ergonomic. Ergonomics have come a long way and are even designed to benefit children of all ages. The advantages it presents adults are just as important for kids. Apart from encouraging good posture, a good ergonomic desk paired with an ergonomic chair will help them through their daily screen time without developing pain or fatigue. And because they don’t feel discomfort, they will maintain a good disposition no matter what they’re doing. When they’re in a good mood, you can bet their mental health will be taken care of as well. Fact: excessive sedentary lifestyles can lead to anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. And ergonomics is a good way to avoid developing any of these.

Encourage them to take breaks. Keeping in a single activity for far too long can be mentally draining. Encourage your kids to switch to their hobbies for a couple of minutes throughout the day so they can take a break from the monotony. Doing so will give their minds a refreshing boost that will tide them through the remainder of their tasks. A break can come in a variety of things that is not just limited to hobbies. This could also be a nap, a snack, a bath, or even watching a few videos. Just remind them that they should set a time limit, so they don’t end up cramming later on.

Don’t wait for your child to start detaching themselves and have behavioral changes. Look out for warning signs, but don’t overreact. The key here is to watch for it the moment it starts so you can address it immediately. Even adults cannot be told to “snap out of it” so don’t expect this to work for children. What you’re essentially doing here is to make sure they have the support they need regardless if they ask for it or not.