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Family First with FOX43: How kids can improve mental health hygiene during COVID-19

The coronavirus pandemic has caused stress for everyone, including kids. Now a new study shows there may be easy ways to help your little ones stay mentally healthy.
Credit: WPMT FOX43

Their whole world has been turned upside down. Kids are experiencing the stresses of a pandemic. However, a new study shows there may be some simple ways to help your little ones practice good mental health hygiene. 

A 2019 study done by the publication Mind, Brain, and Education studied 2,300 kids in 5th through 8th grade. It found those tested well in mindfulness activities correlated directly with better academic achievement as measured by grade point average and standardized tests. They also showed greater academic performance than the previous year, better attendance, and fewer suspensions.

Doctor J.P. Shand, a psychiatrist with WellSpan Ephrata Community Hospital, believes improving a child's mental health is more important now, than ever.

"Kids should know this is an unprecedented time," he said. "All the feelings you're having during this time you can consider normal. So if you're feeling anxious or sad or angry or scared, talk about it, because all the adults in your life around you are feeling the same thing."

Shand says part of improving one's mental health is to take time for themselves every once in a while. 

"If you need to take a day in bed and just watch movies and just exit your household and go into your own room and own space, do it. Take that time. But tell someone what you’re doing and why you’re doing it," Shand said.

This is where communicating with parents is key. If a child doesn't get out of bed one day, parents will naturally feel something is wrong, or a child is depressed, according to Shand. However, that's not necessarily the case. Depression is typically diagnosed when the pattern lasts for two weeks, so kids need to keep their parents in the loop of how they're feeling, as well.

Doctors say mindfulness can be achieved through breathing exercises, yoga, and meditation. Experts say these types of activities are simple to do at home. For example, you can place a stuffed animal on a child’s stomach and ask them to rock it to sleep with gentle breaths.

Shand suggests looking through YouTube for guided meditation activities, and doing Yoga with family.

"That would be a great way to use our screen devices for our mental health," he said.