Taking Notes on Our Children’s Mental and Physical Health
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to take a toll on the physical and mental health of our nation. As we enter a new, very uncertain, academic school year, it is important for parents, caregivers, and school staff to monitor the physical and mental health of our children.
For those children who are physically going to in-person instruction, the anxiety and fear is evident. Navigating the uncertainty of it all can be overwhelming. Checking in with your students and establishing open lines of communication is key.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends making sure your child is up-to-date on their vaccinations, talk with your child about how school and interactions with teachers and classmates is going, make handwashing fun, and check to see if your child’s school has any system in place that identifies and helps students cope with their mental health.
For those who are learning virtually, too much time in isolation can be harmful. “Tips for Students in the Age of Online Learning,” a blog written by Parker Huston, PhD at Nationwide Children’s Hospital has some tips to make online learning go as smooth as possible. He suggests that your child has a dedicated learning space and a schedule that he or she can stick to. Taking this type of learning seriously will be crucial in making sure you child remains on track this year.
While all the tips provided by Huston are welcome additions to our new normal, be sure to keep your children connected to their friends and family whenever you can. Schedule a virtually study session with a friend for your child. Set up a virtual game night for a few friends. These activities and others help to prevent mental health struggles.
Jonathan Mathis, MD, Pediatrician
“It’s vital to keep an open line of communication with your children,” shared Jonathan Mathis, MD, Pediatrician, Holzer Health System. “With COVID-19, virtual and in-person learning has created new obstacles and challenges to established routines for the entire family. We want to encourage parents/caregivers to continue to foster environments to allow for their children to be able to express their emotions and concerns. It is also important for parents to acknowledge their own emotional and psychological state. We encourage parents to utilize their primary caregiver and pediatricians as a resource in order to provide the very best environment possible for growth and development.”
According to Mental Health America (MHA), half of all mental health disorders begin by the age of 14, and approximately 75 percent begin by the age of 24. Just like physical health, taking care of mental health struggle early can help to prevent more serious problems from developing.
To encourage positive mental health, practice mindfulness with your child. Relax with them at bedtime and read a story. Schedule time to take a walk with family. Activities such as these can help you and your child cope with the changes happening in today’s world.
Educate yourself on the signs and symptoms of mental health issues in order to seek help for you, your child or someone you care about if needed. Free, confidential and anonymous screening tools are available at www.MHAScreening.org to check symptoms and find resources.
Dr. Mathis graduated from Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia and completed his residency at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, South Carolina. He specializes in general pediatric care with an interest in child development and Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD). To schedule an appointment with Dr. Mathis, call 1-855-4-HOLZER.
If you notice that someone is suffering from serious signs such as thoughts of hurting themselves or another person or your child or teen is in immediate danger of taking suicidal action, call the national suicide hotline at 1-800-273-TALK. Their trained counselors can help find local resources or suggest next steps. For the state of Ohio, you can also visit www.ohiospf.org.