Social & Emotional Wellness

M/INT PTSA presents ASK THE EXPERTS:


We sat down with Social Worker, Jennifer Wallstead, MSW, LISW from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center’s PIRC (Psychiatric Intake Response Center) to discuss self -care.

Why is self-care for tweens and teens so important?

Tweens and teens live extremely busy lives! Between school, extracurricular activities, and social demands; self-care can fall by the wayside. Slowing down and taking care of oneself is vital in today’s fast-paced world. When kids utilize self-care, their stress levels decrease and their ability to regulate their emotions increases. Other benefits include improved memory, feelings of happiness, a stronger immune system, and a better ability to focus.

Parents can help tweens and teens make time for self-care by ensuring there is time during the week where nothing is planned. This leaves time for focusing on what brings them feelings of calm or happiness. Encourage teens to take time to do activities where there is no particular goal, other than enjoying the moment. Every teen differs in the type of self-care they prefer. Exercise, spending time outside, taking a bath, reading, or watching a funny movie are all activities that contribute to self-care.

Further support your tweens and teens by making sure they are taking care of the basics: hydrating, well-balanced eating, and maintaining a good sleep schedule. No one is their best self when they are “hangry!”

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is the practice of being fully present and aware. We can choose to be mindful of our thoughts, bodies, emotions, or the world around us. Ideally, mindfulness is done with acceptance and without judgments (easier said than done!). Mindfulness can be done anywhere, which makes it a readily available skill. For example, we could be fully mindful in any situation by noticing our five senses. This can be a grounding technique used to decrease anxiety.

How can it be helpful?

Mindfulness is a process that teaches us how to control our attention. This helps tweens and teens be aware of their thoughts, instead of letting their thoughts and first reactions control them. This can aid teens with decision-making, and improve relationships with friends or family. Mindfulness keeps us in the present moment, taking away some of the stress related to overthinking about the past, or worrying about the future. At this stage of development, tweens and teens can easily get stuck in “what if” thoughts.

What do you think is the best tool or skill that adolescents can use to manage anxiety?

It is a little known fact that there are very few situations in which our brains can truly “multitask.” Most of the time, our brains are simply switching rapidly between activities. Imagine the strain that puts on your teen’s brain and emotions! To make it even more challenging, today’s technology pulls adolescents into an almost constant state of “multitasking.” This adds stress, and takes away from being able to fully participate in the world around them.

The best tool adolescents in this day and age can use is to be in the present moment, and for them to do one thing at a time. Help your adolescents by encouraging them to take stretch breaks from homework, take a walk without any electronics, or watch a movie without their phones. If they are using their electronics, they can even practice being fully present of how the activity makes them feel, but then decrease their usage when they are doing other activities. For us parents, we should also remember to practice what we preach!