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Prioritizing Mental Health as a Family

​A recent survey by the American Psychiatric Association shows that a majority of adults who have children in their household are worried about the mental state of their kids. Nearly half of those surveyed indicated that living through the pandemic has caused mental health issues for one or more of their children. So, what's a parent to do?

According to Natalie Jensen, Ph.D., Psychologist at Boys Town Center for Behavioral HealthSM, it is important to watch for the tell-tale signs that your child needs some help. “If you or your family members notice that your child's sleep, eating habits or relationships with others have changed, or if your child is having chronic difficulty with everyday things like getting out of bed or is isolating from others, it's important to check in with them and open a calm conversation."

Bridget Barnes, Boys Town Common Sense Parenting® Program expert agrees. “Post-pandemic, I have noticed that families have become more aware of their children's mental health and have made it a priority. In our Common-Sense Parenting classes, parents are much more open to get help for their kids who are struggling."

“When approaching mental health issues with your kids, the best option is to lead with vulnerability," said Jensen. “You want your kids to know that you are checking in with them because you care about them and what's going on. Let the kids lead the conversation and don't overwhelm them. In a non-judgmental way, talk about the changes you've seen."

As parents, it's important we foster open and honest communication by really listening to what our kids tell us and respecting their feelings. We are not there to judge or shame them. Perhaps most importantly, we need to empower our kids with the skills and tools they need to strengthen and safeguard their mental health.

Here are six actions you can encourage your children to take right now to help alleviate their fears, worries and anxieties:     

  1. Let go of what cannot be controlled.
    It's important to teach your kids that there is no point in stressing over things that are outside of our control.
  2. Be okay with not feeling okay.
    There is no shame in feeling a certain way, whether it's sad, angry or frustrated. Not every negative or uncomfortable feeling is a “problem" that needs to be fixed.
  3. Seek out “awe" moments.
    Experiencing moments of awe can reduce anxiety and increase happiness by changing our perspective and making us more hopeful and connected to the world around us.
  4. Take self-care seriously 
    A healthy, active body supports a healthy mind.
  5. Stop doom scrolling. Start joy scrolling.
    Obsessively scrolling through social media looking for bad news or stories that validate our anger or negative feelings just keeps us more fearful, anxious and sad.
  6. Find your anchors.
    Identify a support network – the people your kids can turn to for help and encouragement when stress and self-doubt bubble to the surface.

For more information about safeguarding your child's mental health, click here​.  If your child is struggling, please call the Boys Town National Hotline® at 1-800-448-3000 or text VOICE to 20121. Trained Crisis Counselors will provide whatever support, resources or referrals your family needs.

Boys Town also offers valuable resources for parents including classes like Common Sense Parenting and parenting guides, articles, videos, tools and quick tips on a variety of subjects developed by Boys Town experts. For more information, visit​