My Reflections on 2021 - We Need to Help Our Children

When I reflect on the past year, I still can’t believe that we have survived more than a year of a global pandemic. There are many set backs and current issues of great concern that are present in our world, and we need to find ways to address those immediately. However, I also feel it’s important to acknowledge our individual and group resilience.

One of my biggest concerns about the effects of the pandemic is the mental health of our children. Mental health emergency room visits and suicide attempts in children and teenagers have increased significantly as a result of the isolation and overall effects of living in a pandemic. My hope is that all of us, and especially parents, can start to make mental health a topic of conversation with our children that is just as normal as talking about the weather. Our children are suffering, and we need to do something different to address this. As parents we need to speak openly about our own feelings and struggles, and model for our children that talking about our feelings and asking for help is okay. Breaking the silence about mental health is the first step. The second is getting help. In addition to normalizing talking about our feelings, we also need to normalize going to therapy. Addressing our mental health by seeing a therapist is just as important as seeing a medical doctor for our physical health. We as parents need to normalize asking for help and going to therapy.

So, if you haven’t checked in with your kids about how they are feeling, there’s no better day to start then today. If you’re unsure about how to talk to them about feelings, here are some questions to ask and conversation starters that you can use to normalize talking about feelings:

“What happened today that made you feel sad or angry?”

“What happened today that made you feel happy or excited?”

“Today, I (parent talking) felt sad when…”

“I felt angry today when…”

“My feelings were hurt when…”

If you are concerned about your child’s mental health, don’t wait to get help, reach out to a therapist or your child’s doctor. And, as always, if you are concerned that your child is a danger to himself or others or is making suicidal statements, then call 911 or take them to the nearest emergency room immediately.

I know it’s difficult to talk about feelings and ask for help, but our children need help now more than ever. I know that as people and as a society that we are capable of making these changes and doing what is best for our kids, we just have to get out of our comfort zone. I know you can do it.

Stay well and healthy and reach out anytime.