There’s a lot that feels out of control right now. City and school re-openings are in limbo, and life for many still feels upended. But one thing we can control is our efforts to safeguard our family’s digital and mental health.
Both adults and kids use television, tablets, and smartphones more these days for both school and entertainment. According to a study by Axios, children’s screen time during the pandemic is surging by as much 50 to 60 percent putting screen time for children 12 and younger at nearly five hours or more per day. Another study in the Journal of Medical Internet Research indicates people’s mental health has worsened during the Coronavirus.
Priority: Family Wellbeing
It’s clear this season has impacted all ages in myriad ways and put the spotlight on the importance of digital and mental health. Here are some resources and tips to help strengthen both.
Keep structure in-tact. Experts agree that establishing a daily structure is the best way to keep family life as healthy as possible right now. Scheduling set times for learning, chores, exercise, mealtimes, screen time, and connecting with peers in online hangouts, is essential. Safe Online: Establishing structure may be easier with software that also helps limit screen time, monitor activity, and filter apps and websites.
Clarify the news. Kids pick up on everything, both true and untrue. They often collect bits and pieces of “news” from TV, overhearing adults, or fragments of stories from peers, all of which can increase anxiety. Safe Online: Parents can help ease the fear caused by misinformation by (age-appropriately) updating children with facts on current events and helping them understand the context of what they see online or on television.
Encourage connection. Social distancing does not mean social isolation. If your child seems lonely or isolated, help pull them back into the mix. If they can’t meet in a safe, socially-distanced setting with friends face-to-face, allow extra time on Messenger Rooms or Zoom to group chat with peers or relatives. Safe Online: Keep kids safe by using privacy settings in video apps and always supervise young children.
Keep device use in check. Yes, we’re all on devices more, but that doesn’t greenlight a device-free for all. Balance (pandemic or not) is always the aim of managing digital and mental health. Consider putting away devices during mealtime, before bedtime, and even challenge each other to go phone and screen-free one full day a week. Safe Online: Check your phone usage stats on your devices daily or use software to track it for you.
Get moving. Squeezing in even 15-30 minutes of exercise a day alters our biochemical and hormonal balance and reduces mood swings, fatigue, anxiety, and feelings of hopelessness. Safe Online: If you use mobile fitness apps, maximize your privacy settings, read app terms to understand how the app tracks your health data.
Parent self-care. “You can’t pour from an empty cup,” is a simple but powerful sentiment these days. Unplugging, turning off the news, and resting or meditating can turn a stressful day around. Safe Online: Minimize scrolling mindlessly online or engaging in online conflict. Modeling balanced digital habits is self-care and is a powerful way to help your child do the same.
Family Resources Online
Consider online resources. To meet the demand of families at home, most insurance plans now offer online counseling. Also, surprisingly, Instagram is becoming a mental health hub. As worry continues around finances, job loss, health, and the impact of isolation, meeting with a counselor or therapist 1-1 online may be an easy, useful solution. To get started, do a hashtag search for #FamilyCounseling #Marriage #Counselling #Therapy #Stress #Anxiety or a profile search with the same keywords. Safe Online: Vet online counselors and therapists to make sure they are licensed and not part of an online scam.
MHA resources. Mental Health America has compiled an impressive range of resources and information for people in need of services such as domestic and child abuse, drug and alcohol issues, financial issues, suicide, depression, and LGBTQ issues. The site houses endless blogs and on-demand webinars specific to Coronavirus and family mental health issues.
As this season of uncertainty continues, it’s important to remember you are not alone. Everyone is feeling all the feelings, and no one has things like structure and balance mastered. But, we’re all getting wiser each day simply by committing to protecting the things that matter most.