Social & Emotional Wellness - Previous Articles
ASK THE EXPERTS - Conversation with Jennifer Wallstead, MSW, LISW from Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center's Psychiatric Intake Response Center (PIRC) on 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!
December 2021 - Developing Resiliency
We asked Psychologist, Dr. Monica Whitehead about Resiliency and helping kids and teens deal with ups and downs.
Dr. Whitehead is a pediatric psychologist who has experience in a variety of settings including medical inpatient units, the emergency department, primary care clinics, and within an intensive outpatient setting. She treats a variety of presenting concerns including anxiety, depression, adjustment, ADHD, Tics, and other common concerns. While she is a generalist by trade, she enjoys treating anxiety and OCD the most.
Pre-teens and teens go through lots of changes. Can you tell us a little bit about the developmental stage of this age group?
This stage is all about change! At this age, teens are trying out new interests, personalities, friend groups, and exploring romantic relationships. These changes will come BIG emotions (thanks hormones). Additionally, whereas younger children will turn to their parents as their primary source of information, tweens and teens will begin to be more independent and will turn more and more to friends for support and guidance. With more of an emphasis on peer relationships, this does open the door to peer pressure to experiment with alcohol, drugs, sex, and rule-breaking behavior. These developmental changes also call for a change in how you as a parent may have handled your tween’s hurdles in the past.
What is resiliency and why is it so important to development?
Resiliency is our ability to keep going despite challenges, adversity, stress, and trauma. We are all born with some degree of resilience but this is a skill that can be taught and strengthened over time by trying different ways to cope and overcome hard times. Certainly life will come with its ups and downs, and learning how to manage these while continuing to function through life is so important. We can build resiliency by trying different ways to cope instead of getting stuck using the same approach over and over, especially if it isn’t helpful. Trying to stay active, honoring our commitments, thinking about things from different perspectives, spending time outside of our room, treating ourselves as we’d treat a friend, are only a few of many different ways to try to build resiliency.
What can parents do to foster good decision making with this age group?
Be in the know (parents and tweens)! Knowing who your tween’s friends and their parents are can help boost your confidence in the choices they’re making. It will also help if you’re very clear on your expectations regarding adult presence with friends, curfews and rides, romantic relationships, alcohol, etc. These conversations may be uncomfortable but necessary.
Remain calm! Your tween will be more likely to come to you for help with decisions if they know they will be greeted with interest and empathy.
· Model good decision making as well. This can be easier said than done because we as parents also experience our own stressors and challenges! Show them that when you encounter struggles, you can press pause, think, and act with a clear head.
· Be prepared that you will not agree with all of their choices and decisions. Hear them out and let them make their own choices for decisions that are less important to you, even if you think you have a better solution. Sometimes the best learning comes by trying.
· Practice and plan together! If your tween is asking for help in what to do, help them think through alternatives, plan for the solution, and practice it out together! They’re more likely to use the solution in real time if they rehearsed it ahead of time.
From a Psychological standpoint how can parents empower their children to cope with challenges?
So much of pre-adolescence and adolescence is about managing (and tolerating) distress!
· When a tween turns to their parents in times of challenge, many parents want to go into problem-solving mode, we want our children to feel better! However, that may not be what that tween needs in the moment. Instead, validate, listen, and reflect. If the tween is open, offer one or two things you as a parent can do (“I can give you a hug or make some hot chocolate”), but if the tween is not receptive, just listen and sit in silence. Once the moment has passed and the emotional intensity has decreased, then offer the tween to help with problem solving (coming up with different solutions if the situation were to arise in the future).
· When challenges arise, many times tweens want to disengage, to withdraw. Encourage them to continue on—if something happened at school, encourage them to go to school, or if something happened with a friend, prompt them to continue to socialize. You can also gently nudge their way of thinking about the situation. For example, if a tween says “my best friend hates me,” a parent can inquisitively ask “Do you know that with 100% certainty? Is there another way to look at this? What happened last time you had a fight?” Coping usually involves some combination of changing our perception, engaging in appropriate activities, and relaxing, so encouraging healthy skills within these broader categories will be helpful and empowering!
The American Academy of Pediatrics—lots of parent-friendly and validated articles!
November 2021 (VIDEO REPLAY) - Presentation on Youth Mental Health:
Click Here => https://youtu.be/6PingEV8kH8
Presented by: Eunique Avery, Senior Specialist - Community Engagement, Adapt for Life Program, Division of Psychiatry at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center