(COLUMBUS, Ohio) – Though many kids appear to have been incredibly adaptable through the many changes and challenges of the past year, they’re likely feeling a lot of emotions after their routines, time with friends and even their sense of safety and security were disrupted. If not addressed in a healthy way, strong negative emotions, such as anger and fear, can have lasting effects on kids’ mental health, but experts with On Our Sleeves® say empowering them to effectively communicate those emotions can help children cope in these difficult times, and will also serve them well in the future.
“There’s been so many kids going through a shared stressful experience right now. But the fact is that before the pandemic started, we were already in a mental health crisis for children in this country,” said Parker Huston, Ph.D., clinical director of On Our Sleeves, a movement that offers free educational resources to help children understand and regulate their emotions during this difficult time and beyond. “Parents, teachers and caregivers can help by purposefully coaching kids to identify their emotions and recognizing these emotions in themselves and others. Children will experience a wide range of emotions, and they should. Learning to understand and manage their emotional experience is necessary for long-term mental health.”
Emotional empowerment is a series of skills children can start learning at a young age and build over time. Activities can be as simple as stopping to do some deep breathing or reading a book with a parent and discussing how the characters may be feeling.
“When we have really strong emotions that might impact our behavior or our ability to function, we need to be able to recognize, express, and regulate those emotions rather than letting our anxiety take over or our sadness limit our functioning for long periods of time,” Huston, also a pediatric psychologist at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, said. “We can give kids the tools to cope with emotions as they feel them, communicate how they need help, and get those emotions back to a manageable level.”
Mental health resources, such as discussion starters and activities on emotional empowerment and other topics, including gratitude and resiliency, can be found at OnOurSleeves.org.