9 Best Tips to Protect your Children’s Mental Health this Winter
Children’s mental health is so important!
It is a challenging time for parents and kids around the world.
The Winter Season is usually a time of magic and joy for the whole family, not a time of sadness or anxiety and loss.
Parents and kids are stressed, and many of us are feeling stuck at home, isolated and disconnected.
We will need to find new ways to bring some fun to Winter 2021, but don’t despair – I have you covered!
Here are my favorite 9 tips to help your kids (and you!) feel happy and joyful this Winter:
1. Keep to routine
Kids (and we!) thrive on routine and value predictability.
This Winter is no different. If your kids have mealtime and bed and naptime routines, try to stick to those. If there is consistency and predictability in the day, you will decrease the risk of tantrums and battling. We all want a bit of calm back in our lives!
Schedule virtual connections with loved ones during the times you would usually have in person get togethers, not around meal or sleep times. You want your kids at their best!
2. Make a plan
Kids and adults alike love a plan.
All of us will benefit from knowing what to expect; kids love to know what their day is going to look like, even when we are off schedule.
Give your kids something to look forward to each day.
Children get excited about small things.
It could be a special virtual call with a loved one.
It could be a new book you will read together, or a meal you will cook together.
Festive arts and crafts are a favorite activity in our home, and I plan on having a mini project to do each day.
One (masked and socially distanced) trip to the dollar store will provide all the simple items we will need for a week of relaxed family time.
3. Stay active
There is nothing better for your family’s mental health than activity!
Consider taking a family walk every day, or go skating or tobogganing, being mindful to minimize risk of COVID exposure as per your local public health guidelines.
We recommend that every person get at least 1 hour of ‘heart racing activity’ each day, and this is a time you can share as a family, doing a fun activity that will brighten your day and make your body and brain feel lighter too! If we role model healthy, active living, our kids are far more likely to replicate.
4. Focus on you
This time of year, can be stressful and anxiety-provoking.
We have an opportunity to slow down and take a breath. You, as an individual, are a key piece to your family.
You are likely the rock, the protector and the comforter. We need you to be happy and confident and whole.
That requires you to take care of you too.
Try to set aside even a few minutes a day to do something that you love. Get some exercise, alone.
Call up a friend or go for a distanced walk with someone.
Have a nap.
Have a drink.
We can’t draw from an empty well.
Doing something for you each day will allow you to feel your best, so you can be the best parent you can be.
Download this free resource – 9 Tips To Help Protect Your Kids’ Mental Health
5. Focus on the positive
This is not the Wintertime we want or expected, but we can’t change the situation. If you are down and sad, your kids will feel that energy.
They are little sponges.
You don’t have to hide or deny your disappointment, but you can acknowledge it, give it brief attention, and move on. Even if you have to ‘fake it till you make it’, putting on a brave and happy face and excitedly and eagerly making new fun will turn the whole mood of the home around.
This can be an awesome season.
We have our families to celebrate.
We have our health to celebrate.
We have many blessings, and these require our attention too!
6. Minimize the overwhelm
Many of us are overwhelmed and anxious while we are isolated from family and friends.
We don’t need to pretend everything is normal and ok.
It isn’t normal and isn’t ok, and that is ok!
It is what it is.
Each year I am stressed about overcommitting and filling up my schedule with activities and tasks.
Though we all want to see loved ones right now, the silver lining is less need to cook and clean and less need to entertain.
There are fewer tasks to be done, and that extra time you save can be spent with your immediate family, giving them even more attention and love. The pandemic is giving us a reason to slow down, clear our schedules and focus on the here and now.
7. Be realistic
This Winter is not like previous ones, and hopefully not like future ones either!
There is no point of denying that.
We want to be realistic and set appropriate expectations, but that doesn’t mean being a huge bummer either!
Perhaps this is the year to introduce new routines and traditions to your family fun. Have you had a family PJ party before?
Perhaps this is the year.
Maybe this is the year to add in special baking time. Consider making your child’s favorite cookies or cake or decorate a gingerbread house. We can’t be with friends and family in person but creating memories with others via virtual call can be a new tradition you can keep up for years to come.
Borders are removed with virtual connection.
This year we will make cookies with our relatives all the way in Australia!
8. Control what you can
One challenge in the pandemic is the loss of control.
It feels uncomfortable to not be able to plan far in advance or make choices as freely.
This is a good time to focus on what you can control. Consider what is important to your family and incorporate activities into your day in a new, pandemic-aware way. You may not be able to have a big group gathering, but you can bake or cook for others to enjoy in their homes.
You can decorate your home in a fun and festive way.
You can create crafts for family and friends or involve others in activities with you virtually.
We can share the joy, in new and innovative ways.
9. Acknowledge grief
You are likely feeling a sense of disappointment. We all are. And so are your kids. This is ok. We can acknowledge that sense of loss for a typical Wintertime, but not dwell on it. Instead of focusing on the negative, focus on the exciting activities we can do.
For example, ‘I know you were excited to go skiing this Winter, but guess what? We can go tobogganing instead! And have hot chocolate afterwards!’
One thing that strikes me about this past year is how incredibly resilient our kids have been.
They are rolling with the punches and adapting to the current norm with ease.
We can learn something from them.
Resilience is about bouncing back from challenges, and this is a huge life lesson for all of us.
Don’t underestimate how strong and wise and resilient you are too.
Cheers to a healthy and joyful 2021!
Dr. Dina Kulik
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