January may be associated with new beginnings, but it’s also known as the most depressing month of the year. Combined with the lingering pandemic that continues to play havoc on children’s mental health, now is the time for families to step up and give kids a much-needed boost.
That’s the message of leading Canadian charity Chai Lifeline Canada in launching a public education campaign, called Kids’ Lifeline, to raise awareness of the double whammy impact of winter blues and COVID-19 on kids’ wellbeing and offer tips on what families can do to lift spirits.
“Not only are kids suffering from academic and social restrictions and COVID-19-related fears, but they’re now also more prone to seasonal affective disorder (SAD) thanks to the continuous stream of grey, cold days that winter brings,” said Mordechai Rothman, Executive Director of Chai Lifeline Canada, a national organization that helps families of children with life-threatening or lifelong illnesses.
“Working with hundreds of families with seriously sick children, we know all too well the mental health risks involved when kids feel isolated and fearful and have launched this campaign to share with the public proven tools we have developed to help kids cope,” said Rothman, a father of four kids, aged 8-16. “School closures and restrictions have particularly been hard on youth from both an academic and developmental standpoint, and we encourage the government to find alternate solutions to curb the spread of COVID-19 in order to remove the isolation kids across the country are feeling.”
In the meantime, Rothman offers families this advice to help their kids beat the winter blues amid the pandemic:
Talk it out. Numerous studies point to an increase in pediatric mental health issues as a result of the pandemic, from anxiety to depression. Make mental health part of the regular vernacular in your home by encouraging your kids to talk about their feelings, validating their thoughts, and discussing what mental health means and how to keep a positive outlook.
Make it a family affair. Reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness by creating as many social experiences with your kids and between siblings as you can. Sit down for regular meals together, cook and bake as a family, and make family entertainment or comic relief a part of your routine, whether through board games, charades, or watching a funny movie.
Find an outlet. No matter what age, artistic expression is an excellent outlet to release one’s feelings – from arts and crafts, to journaling and computer design. There are also online social networks, such as Roblox, that can effectively help kids socially connect with others, if done in moderation and balanced with in-person interactions.
Shift focus to others. Research shows that giving to others helps the giver feel happier. Consider asking your kids to help buy groceries for a friend or neighbour in need. Even a small gesture like making a phone or video call to cheer up an older relative or a friend can result in kids feeling as if they have received more than they gave.
Exercise in fresh air. Get your kids moving outside to relieve feelings of sadness or anxiety. There are plenty of winter activities to consider, from sledding, skating and ice hockey, to simply taking a daily walk around the block. It’s especially important to get out when the sun shines to help boost spirits.
Chai Lifeline Canada is encouraging Canadians to join the #kidslifeline conversation and share their experiences helping kids cope through the pandemic this winter. Please check out our downloadable guide complete with tips and resources here.
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