We are living in challenging times. From the pandemic, to racial injustice, to worldly pressures, to financial challenges, to job or academic stress, it is no wonder that people–including children–are struggling.
Yet God’s Word speaks to the concept of thriving, or growing vigorously and prospering. Even in the midst of challenging circumstances, we are to keep our eyes focused on Jesus and rely on him to carry us through. The hard times can be times of pruning and necessary for our growth, but we must be attentive to our mental health so that we can focus on all the learning, growing, and serving that God has for us!
So, what are tangible ways Christian parents can help their children get through difficult seasons? Based on advice from Christian Heritage Academy’s Dr. Ivy Li, Upper School counselor, and Mrs. Jessica Kurpiel, CHA social worker, we encourage you to teach your children healthy self-care during challenging times. In fact, knowing and practicing these actions for mental health are good lifetime skills for everyone!
Remember, the most effective teaching comes through modeling, or living out, the message. Make sure you are taking care of yourself spiritually, physically, and emotionally, too. May God bless you and your family as you rely on the Lord and practice good self-care.
5 Self-Care Steps for Students
#1 – NAME YOUR FEELINGS
We are so used to hearing that people are “fine,” “okay,” or “good.” However, children need to know that there are many emotions and feelings a person can experience. Help your children to build their emotional vocabulary to construct and articulate their emotional experiences. Print out and use one of the many lists of Feeling Words from an Internet search to use as a resource.
#2 – NOTICE YOUR BODY
Do your children know to pay attention to the signals that their bodies are giving? Things like an upset stomach, headache, sweating, unsteady breath, shaking, or feeling warm, can be cues that we may need to make some adjustments (take a break, take a nap, drink water, go on a walk) or reach out to an adult for help.
#3 – NOTE YOUR ENVIRONMENT
Sometimes the environment we are in is a trigger for emotions and feelings. Help children understand that certain events can cause us to feel certain ways, and this is very normal. Examples may include: weather conditions, loud noises, transitions, not getting enough sleep, being hungry, etc. When we teach our children to connect their experience with the use of emotional vocabularies, it well help them recognize the need to self-regulate and/or communicate clearly the help they need.
#4 – NURTURE YOURSELF
Through a relationship with the Lord, children grow in their understanding of Scripture that they are “beloved,” “chosen,” His “workmanship,” a “treasure,” and “precious.” Remembering how beloved we are to the Lord can help motivate self-care. Brainstorm with your child positive coping skills to help improve their mood and help them thrive. This could include: deep breathing, listening to or making music, taking a break, going for a walk, talking to a friend, reading, watching a funny video, stretching, using a fidget toy, drawing, coloring, playing a board game, journaling, counting to 10, reading the Bible, praying, or Christian meditation. In fact, maintaining an overall healthy lifestyle–exercise, sleep, nutrition, time to relax, healthy boundaries–are all centered around our relationship with the Lord.
#5 – NOTIFY YOUR SUPPORT SYSTEM
It is important to help your child identify safe, trusted adults they can reach out to when they are struggling. Encourage them to come up with 3 adults at school, 2 adults in the family, and 1 adult in the community who they can go to for support. As parents, please understand that there is nothing wrong with seeking professional help for your child if you see a need. Your child’s teacher or other school professionals can also provide valuable insight.
He brought me out into a broad place; he rescued me, because he delighted in me.