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How Can I Best Support My Kid(s) With Anxiety & Depression?

Zoe Mittman, LSW

Covid-19 has impacted mental health on a global level. Studies have found a significant increase in the prevalence of anxiety and depressive symptoms amongst children and youth. Furthermore, a meta-analysis of studies found that anxiety and depression have doubled among this age group, and has increased later into the pandemic. About one in four children/adolescents are experiencing depressive symptoms, and one in five are experiencing anxiety symptoms (Racine et al., 2021). These statistics are alarming and warrant change. As a parent, caregiver, teacher, or anyone who spends a significant amount of time with children, this blog may be valuable for you. Of course, seeking out professional mental health support is a great option. However, it may not always be viable, and I hope that you find some of the following tools for supporting children with anxiety and depression useful.

Daily Check-Ins 

A check-in as simple as asking a child, “How are you?” or “How are you feeling today?” is a great opportunity to open the door to discussion about feelings. This simple act also demonstrates care and kindness. A supportive adult role-model is a key component of secure attachment and children can benefit from your acknowledgement of them. If you have younger kids, I’d encourage you to print out an emotion wheel online and put it up somewhere visible around the house or the classroom. This normalizes the conversation around emotions. Also, if your teenagers are not too keen on discussing emotions, this is okay and normal. Showing up and checking in on them is just as important, so they know you are there.

Maintain Social Connections

Whether it is through school or outside activities, it is so important for your child to socialize with others. Kids and adolescents lost the time to socialize with peers when the pandemic initially started. This said, it may be difficult to now go back to school and be around hundreds of peers in the building and twenty kids in the classroom. Practicing conversation starters with your kids at home and modeling appropriate behavior can go a long way.

Encourage Physical Activity

Not only that, ensure your children are spending time engaging in physical activities and getting enough sleep each night. Not only is physical activity beneficial for our physical health, but it actually improves mental health as well. Getting outdoors, playing a sport, going for a walk, or whatever the activity looks like, it is important to encourage your child to find what brings them joy. Additionally, minimizing screen time also goes along with this tip. With less screen time, there is more opportunity for connecting with others, engaging in physical activity, and going to bed at a reasonable hour.

Emphasize the Small Wins

Focus on what your child/teen is doing rather than focusing on what they are not doing, which can help improve self-esteem and confidence. For example, if your child does poorly on an exam, this is okay and is not a reflection on who they are. Instead, acknowledge the small wins. Maybe they studied instead of watching TV, or maybe they got to school on time that day. Whatever the small win may be, emphasize it.

Set Expectations Early and Let Your Child Have a Say 

Typically, what kids expect will be different from what you expect as a parent, caregiver, or teacher. How can you collaborate to make rules together? Try setting expectations in advance and make the child a part of setting those expectations. The result? You all will know the expectations and what will happen if a child behaves inappropriately. Along with this, comes the idea of consistency. Kids thrive off of consistency and if they see an adult not following through with what they say, it creates confusion and uncertainty.

Hopefully, you can start to implement one, some, or all five of the above suggestions. Even if you do not believe your kid may be struggling with anxiety or depression, these are still valuable tools to incorporate. Sometimes, kids may be internalizing how they feel, which is why it is crucial to be cognizant of the impacts the pandemic has had — and continues to have — on our children. All this said, these suggestions do not take the place of therapy, but they can be even more powerful if your child is working with a licensed mental health professional. Explore our counseling services online to see how we can help, and contact Symmetry Counseling today to get paired with a therapist in Chicago.

Racine, N., McArthur, B.A., Cooke, J.E., Eirich, R., Zhu, J., & Madigan, S. (2021). Global

prevalence of depressive and anxiety symptoms in children and adolescents during

covid-19: a meta-analysis. JAMA Pediatrics, 175(11), pp.1142-1150. Retrieved from

https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapediatrics/fullarticle/2782796

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