Mental Health Blog
Link between Sleep and Your Child’s Mental HealthPosted by Alicia Kirkman on 3/5/2020
The link between Sleep and Your Child’s Mental Health
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine encourages teens (ages 13-18) to get 8 to 10 hours of sleep each night, and grade-schoolers (ages 6-12) to get 9 to 12 hours nightly. Studies show that children who are getting enough sleep have a healthier immune system, perform better in school, and are cognitively healthier than those who do not. Children can bounce back from a few missed hours here and there, but regular sleep deprivation will lead to difficult behaviors and health problems. If your child is irritable, has difficulty concentrating, depressed, obese, or prone to headaches, sleep deprivation could be the source.
When you sleep your brain is reenergizing the body’s cells, clearing waste from the brain, and supporting learning and memory. These processes are especially important for children as they learning and growing. When a child cannot go to sleep at night or wakes up frequently this essential development cannot occur. Some common reasons why a child cannot go to or stay asleep are fear of the dark or nightmares, unwillingness/ability to relax for sleep, or anxiety.
FamilyMeans Counseling & Therapy provides tips to get a good night’s sleep and support cognitive health.
1. Foster a Good Sleeping Environment
- Remove distractions, including cell phones, televisions, and electronic games. Make it a rule that the bed is for sleep only. Studies show that removing electronics at least one hour before bedtime promotes better sleep.
- Be sure that the bed/bedding is comfortable.
- Keep the noise level down. Play light, relaxing music or no noise at all.
- A dark space promotes sleep and production of melatonin (the hormone that regulates sleep and wakefulness). Turn off the lights and draw the curtains closed. For children who may be afraid of the dark, use a small, dim night light.
- Turn down the heat. Cooler temperatures help to promote deep sleep.
- Essential oils can help to soothe and comfort, lavender and chamomile scents are recommended.
2. Establish a Bedtime Routine
- Go to bed at the same time each night. Your body will recognize this routine and allow you to go to sleep faster and deeper if you stick with it!
- A warm bath or shower within an hour of bedtime can warm your body passively, making it easier to get comfortable and fall asleep faster.
- Reduce stress by meditating or reading something calming or uplifting.
- Keep a journal. By writing down thoughts, feelings, or stresses you can get them off your mind and leave them for later.
*Avoid using a cell phone, tablet, or television to help your child go to sleep. Try some of the activities listed above such as reading, meditation, or journaling instead!
3. Support Sleep While Awake
- Limit naps to 45 minutes.
- Exercise for 60 minutes each day. Limit intense exercises in the evening and instead practice yoga or other slower activities.
- Limit food consumption within two hours of sleep.
- Talk with your child’s clinician about sleep concerns.
If you are worried about the amount of sleep that your child is getting, how to better promote sleep, and/or if behaviors/change in mood are related to sleep, contact FamilyMeans Counseling & Therapy. A mental health assessment of your child can help to determine the root causes of sleep deprivation and how to make improvements.
Written by Melena Nelson
FamilyMeans School-Based Mental Health
Learn more at FamilyMeans.org
Winter Blues vs. DepressionsPosted by Alicia Kirkman on 2/5/2020
Winter Blues or Depression?
It’s cold and dark outside, the sun hasn’t shined in days, and you are feeling sad, uncomfortable, and down-right irritated. You can see these same frustrations in your child and after weeks of sluggish behaviors and grumpy conversations, you begin to ask yourself “Is this the winter blues or something bigger?”
In children, just as in adults, it is very common to feel a change in mood and energy levels during the winter months. Shorter days mean less sunlight, causing internal clocks to get off. This can effect sleeping habits and energy levels. In addition, chilly temperatures often mean staying inside and swaying from regular schedules. And, if done frequently, can negatively affect mental health.
So, how do we decipher if these changes in mood and behavior are your average winter blues or something more? FamilyMeans Clinical Director, Erin Rowlson says “Many of the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), also known as seasonal depression, mirror those of the winter blues. These symptoms can include irritability, changes in sleep habits, difficulty concentrating, changes in appetite, social withdrawal, and more. I recommend having a conversation with your child. Do you get a sense that they are just having an off day(s) or do you sense hopelessness or uncontrollable emotions? As a parent, it is important to trust your gut. If you think your child may be depressed, set-up an appointment to be seen by a professional”.
Not sure where to start? Try some of the tips below to help minimize the effects of winter weather on mental health. If you are still seeing signs of depression in your child, set-up an appointment with a therapist.
Tips to Combat Winter Blues
- Exercise: Keeping active is very important. If you can brave the outdoors to get your daily 60 minutes of movement that is even better!
- Eat healthy: A balanced diet is key in keeping a healthy body, and that effects the mind! Be sure to stay away from sweets, and choose fruits or vegetables.
- Use lights to mimic sun: Turn on lights when getting up in the morning and keep a brightly lit home throughout the day. You can also purchase specialized lamps that provide a glow to give you/your child a daily dose of sunshine.
- Stay social: Attending school, work, and social obligations can seem like a pain on frigid winter days, but getting out of the house, conversing with peers, and staying active can help to combat depression.
- Open up: Talk to your children about how you are handling the winter and feelings you are having. They may be feeling the same way and you can help each other work through it.
- Fun at home: Getting snowed in is a perfect excuse for family time. Plan a movie night or work on a home project. Don’t feel trapped inside, instead find ways to have fun together!
FamilyMeans Counseling & Therapy provides school-based mental health services in New Richmond Schools. This means students and families can see a therapist at school, at a time that is convenient for them. Get back to happy. Set-up an appointment today by contacting your child’s school counselor.
Written by FamilyMeans Counseling & Therapy
Screen Time and Mental HealthPosted by Alicia Kirkman on 1/2/2020
The US Census Bureau says that 20% of teens spend seven or more hours on screens each day. These teens are twice as likely to be diagnosed with depression or anxiety in comparison to teens who spend just one hour using a screen each day. In addition, prolonged screen time has been linked to sleeplessness, obesity, and emotional instability. There is no denying that children could benefit both mentally and physically by decreasing the amount of time they spend in front of a screen. However, this behavior is difficult to change and is often met with tantrums, no matter the age of your child.
Support the mental and physical health of your child by making steps to decrease the amount of screen time they participate in each day. Here are some tips to get started.
1. Be a good role model!
Limit your screen time when your children are present. Be aware of using your phone/computer/tablet when your child is speaking to you. Put your phone away and make eye contact. This reaffirms that they are more important than anything that is going on the screen. Get outside and play, read a book, or take a hike. Show your child that there is life outside the screens!
2. Do not give your child a screen to prevent a tantrum.
Your children will have tantrums. Sometimes these tantrums will occur during inconvenient times, when it could be easiest to calm them down by handing them a phone or tablet to distract them. Instead, help your child learn to better manage their feelings by acknowledging these feelings and helping them to work through them.
3. Have clear limits and rules!
Having an established screen free time is important. Set the rule that dinner is screen free. No television, no phones at the table, no responding to texts or calls.
Stick to these rules! Consistency is important!
4. Bedrooms are screen-free zones.
Sleep is essential for the good mental and physical health of your child. Screen use in the bedroom has been proven to cause issues going to sleep and staying asleep. Do not allow your child to have a television in their room. Require all family members plug in their phone and tablet in a common area away from their bedroom. This will decrease temptation to use.
5. Use media with your child.
Show your child how to use technology responsibly. Read a story online together and then discuss it. Show your children how to use affirming applications and learn how to spot the apps that are not so positive.
Screens are here to stay, and each year children and teens are spending more and more time fixated on these glowing lights. It is essential that parents set boundaries and teach responsibility when it comes to these electronics so that their children can grow into healthy and successful individuals.
FamilyMeans Counseling & Therapy understands that this is hard work. This is why we are here to support both parents and children through life’s challenges. Visit Familymeans.org or call us at 651-439-4840 to learn more ways to support your child’s mental health.
Understanding TraumaPosted by Samantha Burke on 11/26/2019
“Trauma” is a big word. To put simply, trauma is any life event that may be violent, cause a sense of danger/fear, or poses a threat to a person’s life; even witnessing such an event can instill these emotions. Almost any experience can be traumatic, especially to a child. If your child has experienced a traumatic event, how as parents do you support them?
Here are common suggestions for supporting your child if they have experienced trauma:
Understand what trauma is and could be
Know your children well enough to recognize when changes occur in their moods, behaviors, and overall interactions with you after a traumatic event
Model healthy ways to cope with difficulties
Talk about things openly (at your child’s pave and developmental level)
Be present for them
Ask them what would be make them feel safe (they have great ideas!)
Continue with ‘normal’ life activities
Provide daily structure
If you need more support than these suggestions, reach out to your child’s school counselor to set-up an appointment.