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October 5, 2022

World Mental Health Day- Starting the Conversation and Self Care for Families

World Mental Health day gives us the opportunity to start to instill good self care habits in ourselves and in the people we care about!

Starting the Conversation- What is Mental Health?

World Mental Health Day is on October 10th. Acknowledging the day aims to raise awareness for mental health issues and self care. As parents, you can start the conversation and build a foundation of safety with your children as they build ways to navigate their emotions.

One of the biggest questions for parents with young kids… is how to make the invisible parts of our day (like feelings) understandable and clear . The National Alliance on Mental Illness has an activity book (available in both English and Spanish) called “Little Monster”. Coloring Little Monster and  talking about how he’s feeling, are great ways to make mental health a tangible topic for your little one. 

Caring for Yourself, Your  Mind and Your Family

Checking in with yourself and your family can help everyone. This could be as simple as asking “How are you?” and making sure to listen to the answer. Below, we’ve included other ways to care for yourself and those around you. 

  • Get active and get outside (yes, even in the cold!)
  • Heading out for an activity allows you to move your body to release stress (and endorphins), a way to interact with others, and can hit “reset” for your brain to settle and refocus.
  • In contrast to being active, make sure to demonstrate rest as a family. This could be quiet reading time, watching tv or a movie, painting, coloring or other forms of art, or just taking a nap when your little ones are doing the same!
  • Listen to your little ones
  • Because their vocabularies are growing daily, it’s not always easy to understand what your little ones are trying to express. The important thing is that you’re listening to them, and taking them seriously when they express their emotions or confide feelings in you. Getting down to their level, making eye contact, or offering space/ touch are all ways a parent can reinforce being present.
  • Model it’s okay to feel “negative” emotions.
  • Feeling upset can feel like an every other moment some days, and often over (what seems to us) the smallest of things. The next time your child is having a tantrum, or in tears- share it’s okay to feel bad, while acknowledging how we act our  our feelings matters. For example “ I understand you’re sad we need to leave, but hitting me is not safe. Can you help me open the door instead?” 
  • Center yourself first
  • Airplane safety reminds us in case of emergency to place our own oxygen masks on before helping our neighbor… and the same is true with our emotions and family. When we have strong escalating feelings… it’s nearly impossible to help a child de-escalate their own. Model what it looks like to take a “time out” as an adult to calm down, and return to the conversation. Taking deep breaths, setting a timer to be alone, or simply saying out loud what you are feeling- can all redirect our mental health.
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