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Not every day is perfect, and being a kid is tough. When your child has had a difficult day, it can be hard on us as parents when they’re not themselves. We’re here with licensed pediatric mental health counselor MinhGiang Nguyen, LMHC, with some tips on how to help your child unwind after a long, hard day.
By incorporating these tips into your family’s routine, you’ll be supporting your child’s mental and emotional health while making life happier, easier and more connected for your whole family.
Tip 1: Keep a Consistent Routine
Create a routine and stick to it as consistently as possible as a family. MinhGiang says, “Having a routine helps children know what to expect and exactly what they should do when they get home from school. I highly recommend setting a routine so they know what to do when they get home without any confusion or added frustration.”
A helpful after-school routine might be something as simple as the following:
- Take off your shoes and wash your hands
- Do your homework
- Play outside
- Eat dinner as a family
- Take a bath
- Have story time
- Go to bed
Tip 2: Incorporate Treats
Treats can be a great incentive in moderation. They don’t need to be anything elaborate (like taking your child to a theme park or buying expensive gifts).
MinhGiang explains: “Ideas like cooking your child’s favorite dinner of choice on Mondays, going to a playground every other Wednesday or going for ice cream after school on Fridays are perfect to give them something to look forward to; these also help you stick to a routine if the treats are expected on a schedule.”
Tip 3: Limit Screen Time
While screen time for children and adults and its impact on whole-person health has been an issue of concern for some time, the average amount of screen time for children rose by 52% during the COVID-19 pandemic. That equates to about 84 more minutes per day spent on tablets, computers, phones and televisions. That’s also 84 fewer minutes of time exercising, playing outside, reading and spending time with family. That statistic alone connects to the rise in mental health conditions in children.
“Set a specific time frame for your children to use technology for fun or watch TV,” MinhGiang recommends. “A reasonable amount of time such as 30 to 60 minutes after their homework and playing outside would be a nice routine to follow. Set an alarm during screen time so they know the boundaries. The rest of the evening, you can have them wind down by reading, drawing or doing whatever makes them feel whole.”
Another idea to incorporate is using screen time for extended family time, which creates more opportunities to connect with each other. For example, you can watch a favorite TV show as a family, have movie night or do a language learning app together for an hour every evening.
Make sure dinner time is family time and that the dining room is a screen-free zone.
Tip 4: Find Ways to Connect Every Day
Kids enjoy and appreciate the little things more than you think. Asking them how their day was or saying, “I love you and I’m so glad your home,” make them feel seen, heard, loved and appreciated. Be sure to give them a hug as soon as they come home each day.
MinhGiang reminds us, “We tend to neglect the simple things in life like fresh air on the playground and concentrate more on treats and tokens for our kids. We were once little too, and we tend to forget that our little ones don’t yet have the life experience that we do. And that’s normal. Doing simple things to help your child unwind is a good thing as it nurtures their mental health.”
What children need most is to know they’re loved unconditionally. And by following these tips, they’ll always remember they are.
To learn more about our Pediatric Mental Health program and how we can help your child thrive in body, mind and spirit, visit AdventHealthforChildren.com/MentalHealth.