Sage Advice – Stay in touch
by Liz Schoeben MFT
Many parents are concerned about their children falling behind in academics due to the pandemic. Sadly, the social and emotional tolls are also concerns. According to the 2022 KIDS COUNT Data Book, a 50-state report of recent household data analyzing how children are faring, California ranks 33rd in child well-being.
California youths experienced the second largest increase in depression and anxiety among all 50 states, with 7 percent of children ages 3 to 17 diagnosed with depression or anxiety in 2016, increasing to 11 percent in 2020.
The U.S. The Surgeon General says we are facing a youth mental health crisis. Over 65 percent of California youth with major depression do not receive any mental health treatment due to lack of access to services.
The good news is the issues are treatable. Early intervention and getting access is the key.
Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District has been in the forefront of making students’ social and emotional needs a priority. The program SAGE continues in its sixth year partnering with the district to provide mental health support at all secondary schools. There are many ways parents and caregivers can support their children’s mental health.
- Children observe everything we do. In fact what we do has much more of an impact than what we say. So model behaviors you want to instill in your children. Put down that phone at dinner, and family time, spend time doing activities together that you enjoy, cook healthy meals together, laugh a little and don’t forget to hug your kids and say I love you.
- Look out for behavior changes. As parents, you are the experts in your child’s behavior. Sudden changes can indicate underlying issues. Your outgoing 10th grader who suddenly stops socializing, and spends more and more time alone in their room is worth exploring. But your introverted 5th grader may recharge by being alone and playing video games. Knowing your child is key in detecting changes.
- Be open and honest in your communication. Therapists often hear from students that they want their parents to be vulnerable, to show they too may be struggling. This can be current struggles or ones in the past. Share your failures and your successes with your kids. And remember. ask about other issues besides school work.
- Make discussing feelings and emotions okay in your family. Talk openly about what it means to feel frustrated, disappointed or angry. Share the emotions you might have had during the day. And of course it’s great to also talk about joy, happiness and excitement. In fact many events during the day may evoke more than one feeling or emotion.
- Routine and structure can look different for individual families. But establishing some sort of routine and structure helps children feel safe and secure. Children with anxiety especially benefit from routines. Knowing what to expect has a way of calming. Sleep also plays a huge part in mental health. The Sleep Foundation recommends 9 to 11 hours of sleep for children ages 6 to 13, and 8 to 10 hours of sleep each night for teens ages 14-17.
Liz Schoeben MFT, is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with over 25 years of experience counseling adolescents in academic settings in Los Angeles, Seattle and the San Francisco Bay Area. She is the executive director of SAGE, a Project of Impact Philanthropy Group. For more information visit SageSoCal.org. Pen