While childhood is proclaimed as the most carefree phase of life, the fact is that children today are toying with multiple stress points, be it academics or peer pressure. As per the Indian Journal of Psychiatry in 2019, even before the pandemic, at least 50 million children in India were affected by mental health issues. The pandemic with its forced quarantines & lockdowns has further played havoc with the mental health of adults & children alike. So much so that experts predict a mental health pandemic post-COVID, a fact that was corroborated by data released by the World Health Organization that showed that the global prevalence of anxiety and depression increased by a massive 25%.
No time, therefore, is too early, when it comes to helping your kids understand why mental health matters & more importantly leading them to activities that can boost mental health. Here are some handy activities that lead to improved mental and emotional well-being & help children navigate life’s daily stressors.
There is no better outlet for emotions than music. Studies have found that music helps boost self-esteem, decreases social isolation & reduces stress & anxiety. Simply listening to one’s favorite songs or jamming as a family can go a long way in releasing stress. That music also helps with the quality of sleep as also boosts memory, which is definitely an added perk!
2. Get Active
Physical activity has a strong bearing on mental health. Studies have suggested that exercise reduces symptoms of depression. Not without reason, as exercise releases feel-good endorphins, and other natural brain chemicals that can enhance your sense of wellbeing.
While heading to the outdoors and being amidst nature has a great de-stressing effect, in case you cannot head out, it doesn’t mean that you cannot exercise. Encourage the child to dance his or her way to beating stress & have a lot of fun in the process. You can also play games such as tag or freeze jump as a family to get everyone in action mode. Mindfulness practices like yoga are big enablers too.
3. The Attitude of Gratitude
This is one attitude that is best cultivated early. It stands to reason that children who are able to focus on what they have as opposed to what they do not, grow up to be more content adults. Come to think of it, it is the overarching focus on a sense of lack that is the cause of our stress & anxiety as adults. To cultivate this attitude of gratitude, a simple home activity of creating a Gratitude Jar can go a long way. Choosing a jar, labeling it as the “ Gratitude Jar”, and decorating it together, are activities that will help you speak to the child about the importance of gratitude. Going forward, the child dropping notes on areas that they are grateful for will help develop their gratitude muscle. The fact that what you focus on, grows, will ensure that a positive way of looking at things will lead to more positivity in the life of the child.
No better way for a child to unwind than with a coloring book. It goes a long way in helping the mind relax. It also acts as a great mindfulness activity that helps the child to be in the present moment. If the child loves drawing & sketching, that can be a stress buster too! Even without being great artists, they can still draw a “mistake masterpiece”. The fun, laughter, and banter that will come along with it, will be a great stress buster!
5. Bonding with Pets
You don’t really need any research to tell you that the unconditional love offered by pets, is a great enabler. Ensuring that the child spends time with four-legged friends can be the biggest therapy of all time. Having the child take responsibility for the pet as opposed to just spending time playing with the pet, works wonders. Pro tip- Raising a dog or any other pet is a big responsibility. Bring a pet home only when you are ready for it. Till then, the child can foster a pet or look after the many street dogs that can do with a lot of care & affection.
No better way for the child to express his or her feelings than through keeping a journal. It also goes a long way in encouraging self-reflection. In addition to the gratitude jar, the journal could also document things that the child finds worthy to be grateful about at the end of each day!
Sharing one’s day & the many feelings that came with it, with a trusted adult, is also one habit that when formed early goes a long way in having a healthy attitude toward life. As a parent, you need to be careful though when they express their feelings to you. It is your message that all feelings are acceptable that will help them understand that it is okay to acknowledge all feelings. Often times in our hurry to set things right for the child we tend to invalidate their feelings. In turn, these feelings of invalidation come in the way of the child’s social-emotional development. When the child is angry, for example, instead of saying “why are you angry about such a small thing” which passes a message to the child that his feelings of anger aren’t valid, it will work far better if you acknowledge that the child is angry and suggest ways such as running around together till the big feeling of anger abates. The central message that needs to go to the child is that all feelings are fine. If out of anger, however, the child hits someone the message needs to be that while the feeling of anger is acceptable, its manifestation by way of hitting is not.
No time is too early to introduce the child to meditation. Simply spending some time where the mind is still can be the biggest life skill that you can give the child, in today’s day & age of distraction and limited attention spans. Simple breathing exercises can also do wonders in keeping stress & anxiety at bay.
Overall it will work best if you model good coping skills and share your own feelings with the child in an age-appropriate manner. That children imitate their caregivers, is a given. A good self-care regime thus goes a long way in not just improving your own mental health but also that of your child.
At Pragyanam School, we take great care in ensuring that children are taught essential life skills that make them resilient and also help them navigate the many challenges of life. Whether it is creating self-awareness or helping with developing empathy, or offering skills to cope with the stressors of life, our efforts are centered around promoting the child’s overall well-being. The child grows up discovering their innate abilities, free from limiting beliefs. When Pragyanam is counted among the best CBSE schools in Gurgaon, it fills us with immense pride as it stands as testimony to our pedagogy that stresses the fact that children are born with unlimited potential and as adults what we only need to do is to nurture this no-limitless.