You are likely aware that there is another pandemic happening alongside this current one and that is the pandemic of mental health concerns and for this article today, I'm focusing on children. Kids under 12 years old are taking a major hit. In fact, a mental health app in Australia with six million users has seen a 350% increase in children under 12 accessing it and a 150% increase in parents as well.
Young Canadians have reached out to Kids Help Phone more than 4 million times in 2020 and that is double what it was in 2019.
Let's take a look at some of the stats of this pandemic on mental health:
Being a mom to a five-year-old these stats break my heart. Walker and I are doing everything we can to support Vienna. I think she's doing fine, but the stats on other children don't lie.
While our government has pledged more money to hire mental health support workers in Ontario, you can't help but wonder if our politicians have been making the right choice to lock down our cities and isolate us from each other. It's okay to question this and it's important to talk about it!
Even though in-person learning is back on here in Toronto, the damage of social isolation is still an issue because beyond school children are still not allowed to have indoor playdates. This is because the covid-19 rules in Toronto state that you are not allowed to interact indoors with anyone outside your household. Keeping children away from their peers deepens social isolation.
A recent Sick Kid's study revealed that 70% of children and teens in Ontario report worsening of mental health since the pandemic began and much of that is due to social isolation.
We've been following these rules and Vienna hasn't had an indoor playdate since last year but being parents to an only child, not a weekend goes by that she doesn't ask when she can have playdates again.
To mitigate the negative effects of social isolation and support our children's mental health I'm sharing 5 ways to support your child's mental well-being.
1. Get Some Calm Vibes Flowing in Your home
It is no secret that meditation effectively lowers stress and anxiety and has been proven time and time again in thousands of studies worldwide. Rather than waiting till your child seems "off" try to make it a practice a few times per week.
Try Meditation. As you know, I meditate daily and it is how I keep anxiety in check. I use the Calm app for myself and Vienna! They have an awesome "Calm Kids" section with meditations that are only 3-5 minutes long. She loves the Thomas the Train one!
Try Yoga. Cosmic Kids Yoga on Youtube is another great option for younger ones 3-12 years of age with fun and story-themed yoga classes. We do a class 4-5 times per week! They are particularly good when Vienna is cranky or "bored". Jamie, the woman who does the classes is absolutely fantastic!
2. Children need to know they are loved, they are safe and secure
I know I'm Captain Obvious here, but if there's one thing I've learned reading parenting books and subscribing to Dr. Laura Markham's newsletter, children need to feel safe and secure to thrive. How can you provide that environment? It's simple, free and something you can do right now. Give them extra hugs and assurance and let them know they are safe and secure, especially if your child has a lot of anxiety and fear about covid. As the old saying goes...
3. Give them a daily probiotic to support their gut health.
There is much emerging research on the link between gut health and mental health. We now know that gut bacteria play a critical role in our mental well-being and supporting your child's microbiome is key to many factors of their wellness. Serotonin, a key neurotransmitter for mental health and happiness is primarily made in the gut with the help of gut bacteria.
Consider a probiotic. I give my daughter Genuine Health's probiotic for kids every day. It has 7 balanced strains that mimic a healthy gut flora in a yummy chewable. I collaborated with Genuine Health to launch this because I believe in the importance of supporting a child's gut and there are numerous benefits beyond mental health including immune support.
4. Cultivate Togetherness
You might be thinking "no sh%t sherlock", but togetherness does not mean you're all watching TV at the same time or sitting around a table with your nose in a laptop or staring at a computer.
The togetherness I'm talking about is interacting with one another and doing something you all enjoy, together. I've got lots of ideas to cultivate togetherness such as:
5. Check yo'self!
Are you a complete stress-bag of nerves and anxiety?
Children pick up on everything in the home and they are a mirror reflection of you.
If you're not taking care of your own mental health and well-being, how can you expect your child to manage their own emotions in this pandemic? What are your daily rituals to cultivate happiness and calm vibes in your home? It's never too late to start!
There is no perfect way to parent, especially in the current situation we've all been thrown into the last 12 months!! So please don't beat yourself up if you have been struggling. We all have! This pandemic has been easy on no one, and it's been especially hard on parents when the kids are home from school and you're trying to juggle working with homeschooling. You're doing A LOT!
My hope is this post gives you some ideas on ways to support your child's mental health if they are struggling.
Please feel free to share your own ideas in the comments below on how you are cultivating a healthy home for your children to thrive.