Dr Felecia Sumner
5 ways to improve mental health in children
Updated: Feb 9, 2021
Let’s talk mental health in kids.
As a mother of 3 little divas, this topic really hits home. Some of our kids are facing serious mental health challenges because of the pandemic. They are either doing school remotely or are wearing masks all day, and all of them are being asked to stay physically distanced from their closest friends.
It’s a lot for anyone to handle–and especially kids!
A study about mental health in college kids during the pandemic just came out, and I would guess the findings mostly translate to grade-school-aged kids as well.
In the spring of 2020 when many schools and colleges went remote, researchers did a survey of more than 2100 college students from 7 universities across the US. They discovered what risk factors put some kids at a higher risk of psychological struggles related to the pandemic. Here’s the list:
Engaging in more screen time
Knowing somebody who contracted the virus
Having fair or poor health rather than good overall health
On the bright side, the survey also showed that spending 2 or more hours of time outdoors each day was beneficial for students’ mental health.
That’s a win.
For as much as all of us are struggling to stay sane during this pandemic, let’s not forget the kids. Here are 5 ways to improve the mental health in your children, especially during a pandemic:
Get them outside. Even in the colder weather, just a brisk walk for 10 minutes can get them some of the Vitamin D they need to boost their mood!
Get them exercising. Running outside in the yard, hitting the playground, or a quick game of hide and seek or tag can go a long way!
Get them eating healthy. A well rounded diet rich with fruits and vegetables contains a lot of the antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals well known to improve serotonin levels and boost mood.
Get them in a routine that includes time to relax and to play. It’s often difficult for kids to thrive in “chaos”. Having a day that’s somewhat predictable can improve anxiety levels in children.
Get help. If you find that your child is often forlorn or having difficulty expressing his or her feelings, don’t ignore it or wait until it’s too late. Get them in to see a doctor or therapist. In some occasions, an extra ear can be of great help.
If you have a child, teen, or college kid who you are worried about right now, please reach out for help. In some cases, the functional medicine approach can make a world of a difference. Aside from offering mental health support, we investigate other reasons that could be contributing, such as magnesium or vitamin d deficiencies. This can be a powerful way to support overall health, mood, and mental resilience.
Browning MHEM, Larson LR, Sharaievska I et al. Psychological impacts from COVID-19 among university students: Risk factors across seven states in the United States. PLoS One. 2021.