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5 Ways to Support Your Child's Mental Health

This pandemic has taken a huge toll on children's mental health. In this post I'm sharing ways to support your child's well-being.
Feb 22, 2021 | Joy McCarthy

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:

  • Calls have been pouring in from children as young as five to young adults as old as 28, mainly to seek help for their mental and emotional health to Kids Help Phone
  • Pediatric doctors across Canada have been raising concerns about eating disorders being on the rise. I was listening to CBC radio in the car the other day (which inspired me to write this post) and a teenage boy was struggling with an eating disorder exacerbated by social isolation and lack of activity. Prior to this pandemic, he was an active young teenager who participated in many team sports. 
  • Admissions to the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario and Sick Kids have jumped around 30 to 60% from 2019 levels, with cases primarily involving restrictive eating, including anorexia nervosa.
  • A study in Europe (Italy and Spain) assessed the emotional impact of lockdowns on children and found 85.7% of parents reported changes in their children’s emotions and behaviors during the quarantine. The most frequently observed changes were difficulty concentrating (76.6%), boredom (52%), irritability (39%), restlessness (38.8%), nervousness (38%), loneliness (31.3%), uneasiness (30.4%), and worries (30.1%).
  • A large survey reviewing the relationship between loneliness and mental health problems in healthy children and adolescents was assessed to determine if quarantine and social isolation are predictive of future mental health problems. The review included 63 studies with a total of 51,576 participants. Social isolation and loneliness increased the risk of depression up to 9 years later.

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... 

Hugs quote

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.

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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:

  • Do a puzzle together as a family (this is a personal fave of ours), it's incredibly meditative for everyone!
  • Choose a recipe out of your favourite cookbook (hint, hint) and make it together as a family. Studies show that families who eat together have lower instances of children with depression, higher self-esteem and confidence. A bonus is that children who eat with their parents eat more fruits and veggies
  • Go for a family nature walk, a McJordan family fave!
  • Turn up the music and have a dance party! Be sure to check out Allison + TwiTch on Instagram. Vienna and I love doing their 20-minute Boss Family Workouts which are basically a dance party! 

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.

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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.

Big hugs,

Joy xo

14 Comments
emanuela   •   February 23, 2021

Love this stroy. A great and well-needed reminder for us all. thanks Joy!

Reply
Joy McCarthy   •   February 23, 2021

Chelsea   •   February 23, 2021

We are doing yoga as a family, doing 'Time ins' when emotions get really big, and working more and more on doing even basic things together as a family, like baking, walks, crafts, even watering the plants together! The more we do as a family, the more our toddler gets her cup filled (and ours too) :)

Reply
Joy McCarthy   •   February 23, 2021

Florence   •   February 23, 2021

Hi Joy, I am so happy you've written this post, to broaden the base of persons realizing the negative impact of lockdowns/masks on children. In the daycare of my daughters, the caretakers had to remove their masks, otherwise babies were crying so much it was impossible to manage. No wonder, babies' brains are wired to recognize a human face by looking at the combination eyes nose lips. Kids have an extremely low chance to get severe COVID disease, and don't significantly spread the virus... What we as a society are doing to our kids is revolting me. I've tried to raise awareness in my own family

Reply
Joy McCarthy   •   February 23, 2021

Janet   •   February 24, 2021

A significant post. Thank you!

Reply
Joy McCarthy   •   February 24, 2021

Heidi   •   February 24, 2021

Such a great read and many useful tips. We love Allison Twitch! Going to try Cosmo kids yoga. Thanks for sharing!:)

Reply
Joy McCarthy   •   February 25, 2021

Jenilyn   •   February 24, 2021

My 6yo and my husband both love your recipes, so that for sure is something I try and do with my daughter. Oh, and I love them too!

Reply
Joy McCarthy   •   February 25, 2021

Tina Schulz   •   May 20, 2021

Thank you joy for reposting this! This is so important and to make more people aware. My 19 year old son has been diagnosed with anxiety and depression since the pandemic, and it is heartbreaking to see a once happy grade A student who had lots of friends to socialize with, who was always singing in the shower and throughout the house, to now staying in his room studying and zoom classes and only coming out to shower ( no more singing) and eat. We have after months of waiting just got him into seeing a counsellor. So hopefully it helps. So it isn’t just young children, all ages have been affected by the pandemic in one way or another which is so sad . Thank you for posting this and making your followers aware . I had no idea that so many small children were impacted in these ways due to the pandemic. I will be getting together with other parents, friends and coworkers to to forward your suggestions to parents of children in our community. It is a small step but a start that will hopefully bring parents together and begin a movement to a larger community.

Reply
Joy McCarthy   •   May 20, 2021

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