Tips on improving mental health for back to school
With kids starting to go back to school this week and families beginning to transition into their school time routines, it’s important to remember the significance of mental health. Cami Kesler, a nurse practitioner came on the show to share her #pediatricpearls on how to build better mental health moments such as mealtimes, meeting your child’s teacher, and monitoring their moods.
Cami explains how implementing consistent back-to-school rituals and routines help provide children with security and stability. She encourages all families to make mealtime the top priority, especially during the school year because by doing so, teenagers have overall better mental health and are less likely to be overweight or obese. Eating 5-7 meals together as a family can show higher academic performance in kids as well.
- Utilize time to create conversation during dinner. Whether you have time to cook dinner at home or your schedule requires you to pick dinner up on the road, use this time to reconnect with your family.
- For example: Turn off the radio in your car while you drive, talk about the family members day and then make healthy choices from the menus your family eats out at. This will help decrease constant grazing and snacking throughout the day.
- Start a mealtime tradition! Involve your kids in finding something that helps your family connect during mealtime, often the best and most memorable traditions are the ones that come the easiest.
- For example: Cook a new recipe together once a week, have a family question jar sitting on the dinner table, pick a family member to highlight weekly during mealtime and make sure to make your meals a “no cell phone zone.”
MEET THE TEACHER
We know that parents play a crucial role in supporting their children’s health and learning, but so does your child’s teacher! Cami educates parents in her clinic on the importance of involving their child’s teacher in social and mental health concerns, not only in regards to their education. Building a trusting relationship with your child’s techer will provide better opportunities to support and enhance the learning, development, and health of children and adolescents.
- Get involved! While volunteering in the school is the ideal way to build a relationship with the teacher, there are many opportunities to connect with them from home. Find what works best for you and your family.
- Have open communication! What your teacher sees in your child at school could differ from what you see at home. Remember that this goes both ways! Be willing to share with your teacher (just as much as you should be open to listening to your child’s teacher). Be active in following up with your child’s teacher and always extend an attitude of gratitude for those working in your child’s school.
- Acknowledge varying teaching styles. Just as much as there are similarities in parenting, there are also varying differences in teaching styles. Cami believes it’s crucial to be yor child’s advocate, but to remember that no parent or teacher is perfect. When discussing concerns with your child’s teacher, try to keep the focus on the child, not the teacher’s shortcomings or teaching style.
- For example: Relate specifically how and why a particular behavior modification practice will not work with your child or why your child can only do 1 sheet of homework instead of 3 that is required.
Although sometimes we will parenthood came with a manual, it doesn’t and often there is a lot of train and error when trying to figure out what works best for your child. Children will experience a variety of emotions when their environments change, schedules are disrupted, and when faced with academic and social changes. These emotions will vary starting from pre-school all the way to high school! In fact, one in five adolescents in America suffer from developmental, mental or behavioral health illnesses.
Mental health disorders in children and adolescents are caused by biology (ie genetics or chemical imbalances), environment (ie exposure to violence, extreme stress, or loss of an important person), or a combination of the two. Regular health care visits play a key role in early detection for mental and behavioral health issues in children and teens. If you notice more frequent of severe mood changes, always start with the basic by evaluating appropriate recommendations for your child’s age in regards to: sleep schedules,, food/liquid intake, and exercise.
- Expect mood changes! Be a continual student-parent and strive to learn emotional intelligence. Read parenting books or listen to medical professional podcast, talk with your health care provider, and know what normal mood changes to expect for yor child’s developmental stage.
- Create a calm down kit. If your family is struggling with frequent mood changes, Cami encourages you to create a calm down kit! This could include affirmation cards, an essential oil, pictures, stress ball, peppermint lozenges, head phones/music, bubbles, play dough / silly putty, rubics cube…to help create focus, self regulation, and calmness.
- Stay kind! Everyone wants the best for their children and for each other’s children so one of the most simple tips is to stay kind. Find a way to crate a teamwork approach in establishing therapeutic relations amongst your child, teacher, and friends.
Although the school year is an exciting and exhilarating time, Cami emphasizes that at the end of the day, we all want healthy, happy children. This requires patience, acceptance, and effort in creating healthy habits.
For more #pediatricpearls follow Cami Kesler on instagram!