Health and Well-Being
How to Support Children’s Social, Emotional and Behavioral Health and Well-Being
FOR PARENTS AND CAREGIVERS
The information on this website is intended to provide practical ideas and easy steps to help support child (and adult) well-being .
- Model Resiliency and Healthy Responses. When adults care for themselves, they model healthy behaviors for children. Children watch and repeat how adults manage stress. As a result, it’s important for adults to cultivate their own physical, mental and emotional well-being.
- Keep Adult Conversations with Adults. When processing uncertainties or even frustration, do so in a way that limits a child’s exposure and models a healthy response.
- Have Frequent and Solution-Focused Communication with Other Caregivers. Make sure children see the adults in their lives as members of the same team. This team may include the child’s other parent, caregiver, teacher, coach or daycare provider. Keep open communication about what children are saying and doing; it may give insight to how they are feeling. When adults are working out any concerns or issues, they should do so away from children and use solution-focused skills. Monitor words, tone and body language exhibited in front of children.
- Model Safe Health Practices for School or Other Public Places. Continue to practice and reinforce healthy habits such as hand-washing that may be expected in other settings. Children are more likely to practice these health habits when they are away from home if they have already been practicing them when they are at home.
- Talk to Children about Current Events. Have age-appropriate conversations with children and be sure all adults in the household are using the same language to describe current community or global events. Share only developmentally appropriate facts with children. Focus on exhibiting calmness to avoid cultivating anxiety or distress in children.
- Check in with Children Often. Create opportunities for children to share what is on their minds by asking open ended questions or making statements that do not simply suggest a yes or no response. Examples include “tell me about your day” or ”what did you learn new today?” Listen attentively and show interest in what children have to say. For smaller children, make sure to sit or kneel on their level when talking with them.
- Let Them Play. Play is often referred to as a child’s language. Just like adults need to talk through difficult topics to process them, children need to play to process the difficult things in their lives. This can be true for younger and older children alike. Opportunities for preferred activities, especially with adults, can provide authentic chances for conversation and connection.
- Encourage Expressive Activities. Encourage imaginative and expressive activities that can help children share how they are feeling (examples include, shaping or molding clay, drawing, coloring, listening to or playing music, singing, dancing and journaling). This may allow children to process their emotions in safe and productive ways.
- Create a Structured Environment. Provide children with structure and routine. Have a daily schedule with general activities posted in the home. Smaller children may benefit from pictures rather than words in a schedule. Children do better and feel safer when they know what to expect next, whether is it homework, play, meal or school time.
- Monitor Online Safety. Teach children responsible decision making when online. Ask them questions about what they are doing online and check on this frequently to ensure they are practicing online safety.
- Give Children a Sense of Responsibility. Have a list of age-appropriate chores. For example, a student in kindergarten may be able to help clean up from dinner with the supervision of an adult, but a student in high school may be able to prepare dinner one night a week. Talk with children about chores and come up with a plan together to complete them. Expecting children to help around the house is good for them, as well as helpful to the rest of the family! Setting expectations and showing children how to do chores can be helpful in allowing them to feel a sense of accomplishment for contributing to the household.
- Create Special Time. Parents and caregivers should set aside at least 10 minutes a day to focus on their child. More time is better. Actively listen to what he or she says and stay positive. If the child is younger, play with him or her during this time. Child-focused play has many benefits to child-adult relationships. Take time to help the child maintain friendships with relatives (aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents) or friends.
- Spend Quality Time Together. Take a walk, play a board game or have dinner together. Read together – child to adult and adult to child. Put away all technology. Take turns sharing something happy about each day. Cook or bake favorite foods together. Children can help with meal preparation and clean up.
- Show and Share Gratitude. Identify positive things, ideas or events and share these with children. Dedicate time daily to share statements of gratitude each day. This can be done on the way to school, at dinner or before bed. Keeping a gratitude journal may be helpful to both adults and older children.
- Stay Active. Encourage children to play, walk or hike outdoors and be sure get outside with them as well. If the weather does not allow for outdoor time, try yoga, having a dance party or watching online videos that encourage exercise or movement indoors.
- Maintain Healthy Eating and Sleep Habits. A nutritious, balanced diet can promote overall wellness. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has provided online resources to encourage healthy nutrition. In addition, be sure children are getting enough sleep. Have the same nightly routine and bedtime on both weeknights and weekends to maintain consistency. The Centers for Disease Control has posted recommendations for how much sleep children should get each night.
- Focus on the Positive. Point out the “helpers” in the world and the good things they are doing. Stay age appropriate, limit details about potentially frightening situations and emphasize the good being done.
- Smile and Laugh. Let children see the adults in their lives smile and laugh. Have fun with them. Not only can it feel contagious to smile when someone else does so, but it can also release endorphins, which are chemicals created by the body to relieve stress and pain and are associated with happiness.
- Remember, No One Can Do It All. As good as all the advice may seem, it is nearly impossible to do it all at once with perfection. It is important to take things one step at a time. No one is perfect and that is okay! Take things one day at a time, learn from mistakes and adjust as needed. If things do not go as planned one day, start again fresh the next day and model a good attitude and problem-solving skills for children.
POTENTIAL BEHAVIORAL HEALTH NEEDS
Increased anxiety, inattention and a decrease in focus are some examples of typical stress responses. It is important for adults to monitor these responses closely to be sure they do not interfere with a child’s daily functioning. Talk to the child’s teacher to see what is happening at school.
Below are some important notes about behavioral health.
- If the Child Currently Receives Behavioral Health Services. If the child is in therapy, contact his or her provider about options for teletherapy, in person therapy, or ideas of things to do at home to support his or her treatment goals.
- If the Child Takes Medication for Behavioral Health. If the child is prescribed any medication for behavioral health, consult with his or her physician and follow medical recommendations.
- If the Child Shows Safety Concerns. If the child is demonstrating risky behaviors (self-harming behavior, threats to self or others, drug or alcohol use, harming animals or smaller children), create a plan to provide consistent supervision. If the child has a mental health provider, follow-up with the provider immediately. If there is an immediate safety concern, contact local police, a local hospital, 911 or crisis response team.
WHERE TO GET HELP
Following are key resources:
On Our Sleeves- The New Self Care On Our Sleeves- Mental Health Benefits of Gratitude
MHARS- Lorain County - Family Toolkit
USDA Choose My Plate
CDC Sleep Guidance
Last Modified: 8/13/2021 12:01:57 PM