October 14, 2016

by Mankato Clinic

Between going to school and being involved in extracurricular activities — not to mention everything in between — children these days are busier than usual, which is why it’s so important to make sure their mental wellbeing stays as healthy as possible.

Prioritizing our life by eating better, moving more and getting healthy sleep can help our over-all happiness, which makes sense if you think about it. We need to make adequate time for sleeping and rest by getting up at the same time each day. Having a routine at night the whole family can benefit from is sure to have a lasting impact on everyone’s overall health. Turning off the television and electronic screens an hour before bed and eating healthy helps us to not get over-extended and lets us care for ourselves.

For parents, prioritizing meals helps out kids, too. Try simplifying meals rather than taking an hour to prepare and clean up dinner. Remember that healthy and simple meals are OK; have a salad with protein for dinner – meals don’t always have to be fancy.

In this day and age, it’s increasingly easy for families to get over-exerted with everything that each family member has going on. Instead of feeling frustrated if it seems that you only see your child on the way to soccer practice, use that time instead as a way to connect with your child when you’re with them. On the way to school or to the ball field, ask them what the positive and negative things were in their day, and share with them things about your day, as well.

Try not to make the conversation one-sided and try not to discuss things without relevance. Use that time in the car as quality time and as a way to connect with your child. Having an open dialogue with your children will allow you to observe them and look at their developmental level.

As parents, remember that some kids don’t need to be involved in multiple extra-curricular activities; if they’re more introverted, that’s OK. Parents shouldn’t think it’s a problem if their children aren’t involved with as many things as their siblings or other children, or if they prefer quality time alone.

Other kids, like adults, do better being very active and, by many people’s standards, are very involved. If that works for them, we can’t judge one child’s needs to another. The most important thing parents can do when evaluating their children and their activity level is to think is my child happy and healthy? Are they satisfied and feeling good about school? Are they getting colds all the time or getting too much sleep?

Use your best judgment when it comes to your child and their activities and know that it will vary between siblings. Some siblings have a more quiet personality and some are more extroverted. There’s no right or wrong answer, parents have to be sensitive to their own needs and what their children’s needs are.

When it comes to red-flags with a child’s unhappiness or distress, look for lack of cheerfulness, expressions like sad/angry/scared/ or expressing worry. Additionally, monitor sleep schedules, appetites and school performance. If there are changes in personality or the aforementioned red-flags, don’t be afraid to explore resources that are available for families.