The Omicron variant is putting a real damper on the holiday season and an unfortunate strain on everyone’s mental health.
On top of all the other challenges teens have to deal with like anxiety, substance abuse, school conflicts, emotional regulation, identity formation, sexuality, gender issues, bullying, and more, the pandemic restrictions have exacerbated teen’s mental health. As we head into a difficult holiday season, we’re sharing a few warning signs parents should look out for including their teen being withdrawn, sleeping too much, communicating less, spending more time on social media, not being home as much, not sleeping enough or having abnormal sleep patterns.
Our iHealthOX Team has also gathered some tips for parents to help support their teen’s mental health over the holidays.
1. Practice healthy sleeping habits
Practice healthy sleeping habits, such as no screens right before bed and having consistent bedtimes and wake times. When you (or your loved ones) practice healthful sleep habits, they will be able to receive as many sleep hours as they need. Sleep plays a pivotal role in the maintenance of physical and mental well-being, improving productivity and overall quality of life. Everyone, from children to older adults, can benefit from a better quality of sleep, and good sleeping hygiene is one of the key factors in achieving that goal.
2. Pay attention to your children
Pay attention to your child’s mood fluctuations and be there to listen. Stressful events can have a variety of effects on children. In some children, there is irritability or clinginess, and others may regress, complain constantly, lack self-care, have trouble sleeping, or have difficulties eating. Ensure that you encourage your child to speak, and pay attention to what your child has to say. You should be aware of any changes in their mood, and if the changes are major, you should seek help from a professional. Understanding triggers and learning how to control intense emotions and irritability are crucial steps in managing them.
3. Keep your children safe
Ask your children for details about their plans to ensure they are being safe. Make sure your children know that you have their best interest at heart. There might be a sense of comfort for young people to know that hospitals and medical professionals are ready to treat sick people, regardless of age. We can talk about the vaccines that people are getting to protect them against the upcoming outbreak. Remind them of the importance of wearing masks to keep themselves and others safe.
4. Keep children informed about internet safety
Talk to your children about internet and smartphone safety, especially if they are getting a new device for the holidays. If precautions are taken, the Internet can provide a safe virtual environment for your children to explore some newfound freedom. Make sure to explain to them the dangers of online interactions with strangers and to remind them to be cautious of the information found online. Stress the need to use passwords to protect against things like identity theft.
5. Encourage relaxation techniques
Help your children practice relaxation techniques (e.g., Breathing work and meditation). There is a high level of stress reported among children today. There is no doubt that our children’s minds are tired. Children of all ages really need the opportunity to take time out unplugged every day to relax and focus as much as possible. This type of break can be provided by meditation, yoga, or any other relaxing technique that helps kids function more effectively and clearly.
6. Keep your children moving
Identify physical activities your children enjoy, such as bike riding, hiking or soccer, and build these into your family routine. Being physically active means moving to the point where you are breathing heavily, and sweating. This can help ensure a healthy body mass index and reduce the risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease later in life. It can also increase a child’s enthusiasm and optimism and increase their chances of succeeding at school and at home by reducing anxiety, tension, and depression and fosters teamwork and friendship.
7. Focus and build on strengths
By identifying your child’s strengths and highlighting them, you strengthen their sense of self and enable them to face difficulties without collapsing. Through this process, their metacognitive functions are strengthened, so that they can think more clearly about what they do well. In this way, they are able to teach difficult concepts to themselves based on their strengths and weaknesses.
8. Play with your children (no matter how old!)
Spend time doing what your children love, like listening to music, doing art, hanging out, or playing a sport! It is more important than ever for children to remain connected during difficult times. Taking the time to show your care and genuine interest will allow you to make them feel closer to you. The bond you create with them will enhance their confidence in you!
9. Get your kids to prep the dinner table
Invite your children to help with tasks like dinner prep so you can use the time to chat about their day, or just listen, as sometimes they just need a sounding board. Because you work during the weekdays and your children are in school, it’s sometimes difficult to keep close to them. You can provide your kids with a sense of belonging by inviting them to be with you at one of the key moments at home: dinner. In addition, you will actively participate in their lives by being the first person they call upon returning home from school -or Zoom call!
10. Be an active listener
Be available to listen and resist the urge to jump to conclusions or solutions when speaking with them. Don’t forget, the most important element of communication is not only to talk, but also to listen carefully. It is your responsibility and privilege to be a key listener to your child and give them a chance to express themselves before jumping to conclusions or starting a fight. During the holidays, effective communication is crucial for a happy and successful household. Listen, then ask if you can help them overcome these challenges. Don’t impose.
If you or your child is struggling with their mental health over the holidays, speak to our Care Team or encourage them to check out Charlie Wellbeing, a service that pairs teens with quality service in twenty-four hours.