Finding ways to support the mental health of your child is just as important as supporting their physical health!
We are routinely reminded to focus on our children’s physical health by making sure their meals are well-rounded with fruits and vegetables and encouraging them to play outside for exercise; however, it is far less common to be reminded of what our children need to support their mental health. Here are 3 things you can incorporate into your daily routine to support your child’s mental health:
1. Positive Review of the Day: Ask your child to share with you at least 2 good things that happened during their day.
You can incorporate this activity into your daily routine as you are tucking your child into bed at night. This simple activity provides an opportunity for connection and a window into what matters to your child as well as encouraging them to fall asleep reflecting on the positive aspects of their day. If your child is too young to come up with positive things from their day or is resistant to the idea, you can model it by sharing positive things from your day or share successes you saw your child have during the day. Research shows that reflecting on positive thoughts improves mental health and making the conscious decision to reflect on positive thoughts is a habit that requires effort. Helping your child start this habit when they are young will help set them up for success.
2. Quality Time: Pick at least one time in the course of the day, even if only for 5-10 minutes, when you and your child spend time together with no distractions or disruptions and focus on doing something together.
Positive relationships are built out of shared experiences and time spent together. Research indicates positive relationships with caregivers have been shown to improve children’s mental health. You could pick an activity like coloring, putting together a puzzle, going for a walk, looking at a book, or simply sitting together on the couch and talking. Finding ways to incorporate quality time into your daily routine shows your child you value and appreciate them.
3. Device-Free Interactions: Set a manageable goal for yourself to decrease the use of devices when you are spending time with your child.
In the age of technology, most people use devices regularly for work, social media, phone calls, or entertainment. Our regular use of devices is having an impact on parent-child interactions with the potential to affect our children’s mental health. One research study discovered that parents who use devices during parent-child interactions are less sensitive and responsive both verbally and non-verbally.
A separate study found that the presence of a cell phone, even if it was turned face down, decreased the length of interaction. The researchers theorized that the mere visual presence of the cell phone reduced interaction time because of the fear of interruption. With this information in mind, consider planning to leave your phone in your room or in a drawer for 1 hour a day to improve your sensitivity and responsiveness to your child as well as increasing the length of your interaction time. Increased sensitivity and responsiveness both lead to more meaningful interactions and overall improved mental health for you and your child.
Chitakunye, P., & Takhar, A. (2014). Consuming family quality time: The role of technological devices at mealtimes. British Food Journal, 116(7), 1162-1179. doi: 10.1108/BFJ-12-2012-0316.
Eagleson, C., Hayes, S., Mathews, A., Perman, G., & Hirsch, C. R. (2016). The power of positive thinking: Pathological worry is reduced by thought replacement in Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Behaviour research and therapy, 78, 13–18. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.brat.2015.12.017
Kildare, C.A., Middlemiss, W. (2017). Impact of parents mobile device use on parent-child interaction: A literature review. Computers in Human Behavior, 75, 579-593. doi: 10.1016/j.chb.2017.06.003
Happy OT Month!
Individual therapy is currently being offered as a hybrid model including a mix of both telehealth and in-person services based on the individual needs of the child and their family. Our occupational therapists evaluate and treat children to improve their independence and develop the skills they need to participate in their daily “occupations” such as self-care activities, playing, learning, and participating in social settings. We utilize family coaching and play-based therapy to engage children in purposeful activities to improve sensory integration, fine motor, visual motor, cognitive, self-regulation, oral, and feeding skills. The goal of pediatric occupational therapy is not only to help children adequately progress but to challenge them appropriately, helping to build self-esteem and confidence in their capabilities. Occupational therapists can address the following:
Play and Motor Skills
Fine Motor Skills
Fine Motor/Social/Self-Care Developmental Milestones
Contact us to learn more!
Your Guide to Getting Started in Telepractice (For Clinicians)
Do you feel prepared for your teletherapy sessions? Are your clients prepared and feeling confident in their ability to effectively participate? This packet is designed to make sure you and your clients are ready for each session. These easy-to-use checklists will ensure you don't forget any of the steps and keep your session set-up efficient.
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About the Author
Serena Dewey is an occupational therapist, was born and raised in western Washington but has lived throughout the northwest. She completed her bachelor's degree at Walla Walla University in Speech Communication and then completed her master's degree in Occupational Therapy at Eastern Washington University. While at Eastern Washington University, Serena participated in community-based volunteer opportunities including the organization of a Halloween costume design and trick-or-treating event for children with mobility limitations. Serena also enjoyed partnering with children and their families during a constraint-induced movement therapy camp offered at Eastern Washington University. She has experience working in a variety of settings including inpatient rehabilitation, mental health, pediatrics, early intervention pediatrics, and telehealth.