Add To Favorites
6 simple ways to help kids' mental health during coronavirus crisis
Detroit Free Press - 3/21/2020
Mar. 21--By now, everyone knows the importance of hand washing to prevent virus spread.
But what can you do to keep your mind -- and your kids' minds -- healthy during a time of social distancing, cancellations and general uncertainty?
Experts say some simple things can make a difference.
"I can't emphasize enough the importance of really empathetic listening and acknowledging the kids' distress and not minimizing it," said Dr. Terrill Bravender Jr., chief of adolescent medicine at Michigan Medicine C.S. Mott Children's Hospital. "At the same time, remind them that this is incredibly important and what we all have to do. None of us, even though we might feel lonely, none of us is in this alone. If we all do the right thing, what an amazing thing that is for our country; if we can actually flatten that curve and save lives."
Maintain a schedule
"I think one of the ways we can prevent some of these things is helping kids maintain a normal daily schedule, as normal as we can make," Bravender said. "Help teenagers maintain a daily schedule so they have to get up in the morning. It doesn't necessarily have to be 6 a.m., but they should get up in the morning and do their schoolwork during the day, just like they would otherwise."
"We are all creatures of habit, and we need those markers during the day," he said. "And if we just kind of sit around and think we don't have anything to do, that's a sign that we're kind of slipping out of productivity and potentially into depression."
Watch for self-isolation
"The big red flags would be, even in the midst of at home, increasing isolation," Bravender said. "So a child who won't come out of his or her room or is sleeping all day and maybe just up not doing anything productive all night. All of those things are big risks and they're not just risks for teens. They're risks for anybody who isn't going to leave the house for days or weeks at a time."
"Set aside at least 45 minutes engaged in some form of creativity," said Shazia Siddiqi, a licensed counselor and certified art therapist, who runs Lets Art About It, an art therapy studio in Clawson. "You don't need to have an artistic skills, prior experience, or even supplies." Siddiqi said. "Just a pen or pencil and a scrap paper will do, and a magazine if you have one. There are studies that have shown that 45 minutes of art making can reduce cortisol (stress) levels."
Siddiqi said teens can dial up their favorite playlist, and tune out the rest of the world for a while.
"Take your pencil and start scribbling out your stress," she said. "Then, taking deep breaths, draw in doodles in the spaces that help you feel a sense of calm. Think about how you can create spaces of calm for yourself when things feel chaotic around you. Make it a discussion with family and friends."
"Although we need to maintain social distance, that doesn't mean that you can't go outside," Bravender said. "As long as you maintain, you know, a 6-foot distance from other people. I think it is really great for everybody's mental health, if we make sure to get outside, every single day."
Move your body
"Anything outdoors and physically active," Bravender said. "We also know from lots of research that the more exposure people get to the natural environment ... the better their mental health. If you've got nature trails where you can walk through the woods and look for early signs of spring here in Michigan, that's even better. So I can't emphasize the importance of getting outside of the house for even a half hour to an hour a day."
Contact John Wisely: 313-222-6825 or firstname.lastname@example.org On Twitter @jwisely
(c)2020 the Detroit Free Press
Visit the Detroit Free Press at www.freep.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.