Did you know that some mental health therapies are all about teaching children skills to cope and manage strong emotions or difficult situations?
While not a replacement for therapy, there are strategies and skills you can start trying while you wait to start therapy to support your child.
The bonus part?
These strategies work for adults too!
- Behavioral activation. When our mental health is not doing well, we tend to withdraw. For example, we may feel like we have lost all motivation or energy. Others may feel too afraid or nervous to do social things. To keep symptoms from becoming worse, try to encourage fun activities every day- even if just 10 minutes each day. This is what is called behavioral activation.
- Activities should be a balance between things children like to do alone (watch a movie, art) and activities they can do with others.
- Thought challenging. How we feel often comes from the way we think. Your child may be stuck in a negative thinking pattern where they may perceive the world or themselves as not fun, not good enough, or really difficult and scary. Have open and honest conversations to understand what is going through their mind and help them push back against those thoughts.
- Relaxation strategies. Our mind and our bodies are connected. We know that if we are not feeling well, our body can respond with things like muscle tension, pain or nausea. Help your child include relaxation strategies in their daily routine as a coping strategy. They can try a few minutes of belly breathing, meditation, or mindfulness in the morning when they wake up, after school, or before bed- whatever works best for them! This is a great activity to do as a family. Remember, our kids learn by watching us.
- Physical health. Did you know that lack of sleep is related to mental health problems such as lack of focus, sadness, and increased anxiety? Make sure your child is getting enough quality sleep every night. Also encourage daily movement and activity, along with healthy eating, to keep their energy and mood up as well.
- Self-reflection and problem-solving. If your child is willing, sit down and reflect on changes they would like to make:
- How are they currently spending their time?
- Is there something they’d like to be doing more or less of?
- How do the people in their lives make them feel?
- Are there people they need to set boundaries with?
- How do they feel when using social media? Who do they follow? How do they feel after they use it?
You can help them think through and problem-solve some of the situations that may be bothering them. If they’re not willing to talk with you, help them think of other trusted adults they’re willing to be open with.
You may find that trying these strategies will help your child’s symptoms from getting worse or maybe even slightly improve. However, there is a lot more to therapy and many ways your child can benefit in the long-term. Don’t miss your appointment, even if you are noticing progress. Meet their new therapist and make a joint decision with them about when discharge is appropriate.
If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, contact the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988, or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.