Did you know that today is World Mental Health Day?
When we think of “healthy”, our mind often goes to what we put into our mouths; and while that is a key aspect of wellness; today is a great reminder that overall health and well-being is so much more than just diet.
It’s estimated that depression and anxiety are growing in Canada’s youth; with suicide being one of the leading causes of death for 15-24 year olds – making youth suicide in Canada one of the highest globally.
They say that prevention is better than cure, so what can we do to promote overall wellness in our little ones? We’ve put together some ideas to get you started.
Screen time is the amount of time spent on television, games consoles, computers, tablets or phones.
According to Percil’s Dirt is Good campaign; children spend less time outside today than Prisoners do – that’s less than 1 hour per day – and a 2013 Statistics Canada study revealed that on average the amount of time Canadian children spend on screen time each day is 7.5 hours.
Hard to believe; but with the advent of reading apps, YouTube kid channels and a vast array of downloadable free games aimed at children, it’s easy to see this is feasible.
Research has shown that too much screen time can make it harder to fall asleep, increases the risks of anxiety and depression, feeds into inattention problems and increases the risks of childhood weight gain.
So, how do you reduce screen time? The key is moderation.
Focus on substituting with something else that captures their attention and imagination. Rather than watching endless YouTube life-hacks or crafting videos, set aside time to try some of them in real life – not only are they fun, but they’re a great bonding activity too. Help your child find purpose in something else and hopefully you’ll hear; “Can I go on your phone” less.
Relationships help us learn about ourselves and the world around us; as well as influence our thinking and decision-making.
Encouraging your child to have a diverse group of friends builds their confidence, allows them to feel as though life has “meaning” and offers plenty of opportunities to develop good communication and conflict management skills.
You can encourage your child in his or her friendships by arranging social activities for them and by exposing them to many different groups of friends – it’s amazing how perspective can be enriched by having friendships both inside and outside school.
You probably guessed that this one would be on here! Physical activity is good for you, no matter what age you are; and offers so many health benefits. But physical activity doesn’t necessarily have to mean participation sports.
There are many ways to encourage your child to be physically active; volunteering, helping around the home, walking and talking or helping with grocery shopping are all great ways to get your child moving.
Even setting up your own version of an at home gym with exercises that you can do together is a great shared activity. Anything you can deposit in the bank of physical activity helps.
Keeping lines of communication open, so that your child is free to talk about the things that might be on their mind is a great way to support their emotional (and mental) health.
This might be asking them directly how their day was, how a friend is or how their teacher (or other adult in their life) is; or it might be through sharing your own anecdote about your day or the people in your life to encourage them to open up.
It might also be something as simple as making sure they know that they can talk to you about anything, any time.
Look after Yourself
Children learn from us and very often they imitate us; therefore it’s really important that we are as proactive in our own well-being as we are in theirs.
In-flight safety presentations remind us to put our own safety vest on before assisting our child, which goes against every natural instinct we have to protect them; but is actually necessary if we are to help them. It’s hard to help someone if you’re drowning.
It’s common for us to be so focused on giving our children the best and making sure they are happy, that we can completely neglect our own emotional and physical well-being.
Who has time for a bubble bath?! But self-care goes beyond bubble baths; it’s stopping to take a moment throughout the day to check in with ourselves and what we need in that moment.
No time ever spent on ourselves is selfish – consider it like vehicle maintenance – in order to keep going, sometimes we need to re-fuel and change the oil!
The healthier we are as Parents, the more this can only benefit our children.
Last week talked about the importance of gratitude – being thankful for everything we have. It’s easy to focus on what isn’t going right, but it’s amazing how much emotional and physical resilience is developed when we focus on what is going right and how much we have to be thankful for.
Remember the old black and white Pollyanna movie? Pollyanna used to play the “Glad Game” – listing the things she was glad for. Why not start your own dinner-table ‘glad’ game?
Spending time with loved ones is a fantastic way to promote overall wellness. Quality time with parents; and even extended family; helps children develop a strong sense of identity, as well as allowing them to feel stable and secure in their world.