Parent Guide: Healthy Activities
With all Indiana schools moving to remote learning for the rest of the year due to COVID-19, the kids may be getting restless at home and mental health is now more of a priority than ever. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), one in five Americans lives with a mental health condition.
In this guide, we’ll cover two ways to improve the mental health of your child: promoting self-esteem and making time for healthy activities. If you have attended one of our Stand University for Parents classes, some of the information on self-esteem may be familiar.
If you need resources for health and wellness, please visit our webpage. If you or a family member need immediate help or are experiencing an emergency, please call your doctor or 911.
Self-esteem is defined as “confidence in one's worth or abilities.” Our children are not born with self-esteem, it is developed. And it will impact how children treat themselves and others. When children have a healthy sense of self-esteem, they are more likely to be independent, take more responsibility, respect differences, enjoy interacting with others and handle peer pressure more effectively. When a child has low self-esteem, they may be more dependent on his or her parents, avoid new experiences and use negative self-talk.
Tips for building self-esteem in your children:
Children’s self-images come from how they believe others perceive them. Especially in the early years, children learn about themselves from their parent’s reactions. Responding with positivity causes a child to think positively about themselves. When interacting with your children, smile to show you are pleased, listen attentively to show that what they say matters, and have fun to show your children that they are enjoyable.
Playing with your child is more than just playtime. It lets your children know that they are worth your time and are valued. Give your children your undivided attention as you play. Let your children take the lead in choosing the activity. Remember, your child is more likely to stay interested if they choose the activity. In addition, it builds your children’s self-esteem by showing them that you like doing activities that they choose.
The “carry-over principle” uses a child’s strengths in one area to build their self-confidence in other areas. Enjoying one activity increases a child’s self-confidence and carries over into other aspects of life. For example, if a child is strong in ballet and struggling in academics, celebrate their achievements in ballet while supporting them academically. Their confidence in their dancing ability carries over to the child’s academic work as well.
Children develop a sense of responsibility and self-confidence by taking on jobs within the household. Work as a family to determine jobs or tasks each person is responsible for accomplishing. Some families create a job chart and the family members, including the children, rotate duties. Consider planting a family garden. It is a great way to teach children that with hard work and discipline, they can make things grow.
Allowing children to express their feelings helps to build self-esteem. More importantly, how a parent responds impacts the child’s self-esteem. A child’s self-esteem is elevated when they can articulate and accept their feelings and an adult must allow their children to do so. Rather than ignore their feelings or, on the opposite end, throw a temper tantrum, the child can accept and express how they feel. This is a sign of self-esteem.
Indianapolis Public Schools suggests the following resources to help your children cope with COVID-19:
- Helping children cope with changes resulting from COVID-19
- Parent/caregiver guide to helping families cope with the coronavirus disease 2019
- Talking to kids about the coronavirus
If you need further resources surrounding health and wellness, including expert articles and local news on mental health, view our resource page.
Learning activities that get kids moving:
Create site word flashcards from scrap paper and tape them around your house or even in the backyard. Ask your child to find all the words and write them down on a piece of paper along with where they found the word. When the list is completed, have them read it aloud to you.
Create a list of 10 activities for your child (such as read a page, solve a math problem or learn the capital of a state or foreign country). After you’ve created a list of 10, make a hopscotch pattern from sidewalk chalk and label the pad from one to 10. Next, play some music. When you stop the music, your child does the activity landed on. If they land with two feet, they get to pick between two activities.
Cut out words from old magazines and newspapers or print words from your computer. Make sure there are enough words for your child to create a few sentences. Place the words on one side of the yard or room. Give your child a pillowcase or sack and ask them to hop to the other side of the yard or room, only grabbing one word at a time. The goal is to complete a full sentence or story from the words collected.
Take a walk with the kids today. After you’ve walked for a while and found a safe place, ask the kids to stop and take out their journals or some notebook paper. Ask them to write down their observations. When you get home, compare what you saw or ask your children to write a story that includes the objects they wrote down.
Ask your children a series of grade-level appropriate questions such as how to spell a word or solve a math problem. For every question they get correct, they get to take a step closer to the “finish line.” Have them measure each step they have taken every time they answer correctly and add them up when they finish!
Downtown Indianapolis, even smaller towns and cities, all have a history. Map a family walk that passes historic landmarks such as the Indiana World War Memorial or the Landmark for Peace Memorial and teach your child some history.
Make your child’s favorite dessert today, but ask your child to read the recipe and do all the measuring. Through baking, you can teach your child both reading and math.
Pick a geography song, using one from this list, or a song you remember from childhood such as “Fifty Nifty United States.” Have your child jump rope to the songs. If you don’t own a jump rope, supplement by having your child skip as they sing!
Activities for learning breaks at home:
Another way to promote mental health in children is to provide them with guidance and discipline. You can learn more about positive discipline in this guide.