The Phoenix Centre has compiled a list of mental health tips and strategies to help children, youth and their families. You may find these tips helpful in managing your families’ mental health wellness. Check back often as the list is regularly updated.

Make a summer bucket list of activities you and your family can enjoy. Go back to the basics and play hopscotch, hide n’ seek, or a game of catch. Maybe this is the summer to try that activity your family has always wanted to try. Physical and mental health go hand in hand. Being outside is essential for children’s mental health and it’s important for parents too! Turn off the screens, go for a family walk, bike ride or scavenger hunt.

School is out for the summer and kids can stay up late and sleep in. Maintaining a regular sleep schedule during summer isn’t easy but it’s important for kids and even moms and dads. Sleep and mental health go hand in hand. Some late nights are ok but try to to go to sleep and wake up around the same time each day. Your body (and mind!) will thank you for a good night’s sleep.

Get outdoors! Spending time outdoors in the sunshine and fresh air is known to boost your mood. One of the perks of summer is beautiful weather. Enjoy the neighbourhood park, hit the trails or spend time at the beach. Parents, if you are missing a beautiful day outside because of work, a short 15 minute walk during lunch can do wonders!

With the warmer weather it’s time for kids to go out and play. Physical and mental health go hand in hand. Being outside is essential for children’s mental health and it’s important for parents too! Turn off the screens, go for a family walk, bike ride or scavenger hunt.

We know it’s important to look after our physical health. Did you know it’s also important to look after your mental health? It’s important for parents to focus on self-care individually but also to have a FAMILY SELF-CARE plan. Sit down with your family and brainstorm for ideas that are good for your mind and body. Post your list where the whole family an see it as a reminder. Self care is for everyone!

Children and adults tend to thrive with a consistent schedule.  Try spending time on the weekend planning for the week ahead. Together, write down appointments (both yours and your kids’), extracurricular activities, playdates and even time for fun!  By including them in the plans children will feel valued and when family members know what to expect stress and anxiety are reduced.

Setting limits on screen time is one of the biggest challenges parents face especially during the pandemic. If screen time has replaced good sleep habits, face to face conversation or exercise in your home try establishing house rules such as setting screen-free times of day. Limiting access to devices when the family has a meal together or for one hour in the evening can help everyone focus on family time and improve face to face communication.

Children, like adults, can experience fear, stress or anxiety and need to learn how to cope.  Taking deep breaths, exercising, thinking positive thoughts, playing with pets and journaling are all good ways children can cope. Whatever works for you might also work for them!

Setting limits on TV and video games for kids isn’t always easy in today’s screen-filled world. Limiting screen time outside of education can free up more time with friends and family or playing outside. It will also reduce the amount of time they’re exposed to content which may be causing stress and anxiety.

Showing kindness to others can improve YOUR mental health. Think of something you can do as a family to help someone else: it could be a cash donation, cleaning your your street or putting together a box for the food bank.

You’ve heard it before, sharing a meal together as a family is important. With today’s busy schedules it may be a challenge but when you do, make the most of it. Encourage conversation giving each person around the table the opportunity to share their thoughts and ideas. Kids who feel comfortable talking to parents about everyday things are likely to be more open when difficult things come up too!

If you are concerned about your child’s mental health it’s important to address their mental health concerns early. Sudden changes in children’s sleeping and eating habits, or if you notice they are withdrawing from family and friends, it’s best to reach out. If you or your child needs support, the Phoenix Centre is here to help.

How is your child transitioning back to the classroom? It is important as a parent to recognize the signs of stress in children and teens such difficulty sleeping, headaches, stomach aches and irritability. Keep the conversation open. Talk to them over dinner, while taking them to and from afterschool activities or for younger children, when tucking them in at night. Trust your instincts if your child just doesn’t seem to be himself or herself.

If your child is worried about bullying either in person or online, it’s important to let them know that they are not alone and they can talk about it. Check in with your children daily and ask about their time at school, their activities online, and about their feelings. Some children may not express their emotions verbally, so you should also look out for any anxious or aggressive behaviour that may indicate something is wrong.

During the back-to-school transition children they may be feeling like there is little to nothing within their control. This can leave a child feeling helpless and discouraged. It is helpful to focus on what they can control as opposed to what they cannot. For younger children this may be letting them decide on what to wear and for teens it may be having them create their own at home workspace.

Remind children that we ALL need to ask for help at times. Every child needs a “safe person” at school—ideally it is someone they can trust, who knows them; someone they can turn to for help in solving a problem or dealing with a difficult situation. Older children can be asked to identify some signs they see in themselves when they are frustrated and/or falling behind. Encourage them to think about how they could manage those moments or decide to ask for support.

Starting school or starting a new school year can be stressful at the best of times, let alone during a pandemic. In addition to checking in on your child’s physical health and learning when returning to school, you should also keep an eye out for signs of stress and anxiety. You can make him feel at ease by having an open and regular conversations about what it is that’s worrying him and letting him know that it’s natural to feel anxious.

Your child is likely to ask a lot of tough questions about returning to school this year. They might feel that after the last year they cannot trust that school will stay back. In some cases, you may feel unsure about how to answer these questions—or there simply might not even be answers to your child’s questions. In this case, it’s important to be honest with your child: to let them know that you don’t have all the answers right now because even the experts are still trying to figure everything out.

A little self-care goes a long way! The holidays can be a stressful and anxious time for parents. Make sure you are eating, sleeping and enjoying the holidays as well. Take the time when you need it and don’t feel guilty saying no when you need to. Spending just 15 minutes alone, without distractions, may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do.

For many of us the holidays won’t be what they may have been before the pandemic. That will be disappointing for a lot of children and parents too! It’s a good time to start having conversations with children what the holidays may look like so that they know what to expect. Brainstorm and plan together how you will spend your time during this holiday season.

While holidays can be a busy time it’s important to make time to communicate openly about feelings with your child. Discuss with them how they are feeling. Be available throughout any outings or parties so they know they can come to you for support if they need it. A little one-on-one time throughout the holidays will help you get a better sense of how your child is feeling.

Holiday activities and parties can feel overwhelming. If you’re planning to visit family for the holidays, plan ahead- consider finding a spot during a holiday gathering where your child (or you) can go for a break. Allow your child or teen some alone time if needed. A pause in activity can help manage emotions.

Keep routines and structure as close to non-covid times as possible – or, if needed replace with new routines. This can include waking up, bedtime, chores or mealtimes. Removing routines during covid may cause extra effort and stress for parents to get their child back into a routine later on. We know that routines, consistency and predictability help children feel safe and connected.

Get dressed! Staying in pyjamas may feel easier overall, but dressing for the day and undressing at night creates a clear transition between our awake world and our sleep world. Getting dressed becomes a fun event by challenging family members to do something different, such as wearing different socks, an ‘ugly’ sweater, a dress or colourful shorts.

Kids thrive on routine and structure and even if covid as disrupted your you can still create NEW routines for some normalcy until things settle down. Plus- having any routine will make returning to regular a lot easier. As long as you’re consistent and predictable everyone will benefit!