As Summer vacation is starting, many children welcome a lot of free time. While spending the day binging a new show or playing video games may be tempting, it’s important to stay active.
The Kern County Public Health Department and Kern County Behavioral Health hosted a press conference encouraging families to engage in healthy behaviors to help with both physical and mental health.
“Children who are physically active tend to have better grades in school and have better cognitive performance,” said Brynn Carrigan, director of Kern County Public Health. “Staying active can and should be fun. Make it a family affair and include everyone in your household. Go swimming, go on a hike, go to the park or play a sport and focus on having fun together.”
Doing the activities as a family will encourage each other to stay out longer and be active more. For kids, it is recommended that they get 60 minutes of vigorous activity a day.
Carrigan continued to explain the importance of also incorporating a healthy diet while being active. She stated that it is beneficial for growth and as a preventative measure against different health conditions.
Understanding that there may be different barriers for families to providing healthy food alternatives over the summer Carrigan expanded on different resources available for families.
“There’s a lot of programs here locally through CAPK, through Kern County Public Health’s Waste Hunger Not Food program that can help serve as resources for families to help access this healthier food that we want to encourage people to eat,” said Carrigan. “But it’s really important that our parents focus on trying to reiterate healthy food for our kids when they’re home throughout the day.”
Maintaining your student’s physical health is just one part of their overall health with the other part being mental health.
With the change in daily routine and loss of structure, some kids may struggle with the adjustment. Stacy Kuwahara, director of Kern Behavioral Health discussed that prioritizing ways to keep students mentally engaged over the summer and actively using their “mind-muscle” can help with the adjustment.
As parents are trying to keep their children active Kuwahara advised being attentive to changes in their kids and looking out for warning signs.
“Look for persistent changes in their mood that last for at least two weeks. This might include intense feelings like anger, fear, and anxiety. Are those intense feelings interfering with their ability to do regular daily activities?” said Kuwahara.
Along with changes in mood, Kuwahara stated to look for changes in behavior like loss of interest or acting out of control. Excessive sleep or no sleep may also be signs of struggling with mental health.
If parents are noticing these signs they should take them seriously and welcome space for them to speak to the parent or another trusted adult about what they are going through.
Kuwahara acknowledged how hard these conversations can be for both the parent and kid but explained that it is very important. If a child is expressing extreme hopelessness or thoughts of self-harm Kuwahara said that a conversation needs to be had.
“Be open, listen, and create a safe space for them to talk about what’s going on,” said Kuwahara.
Before approaching children with a conversation about their mental health Kuwahara advised getting in the right environment for the conversation and the right time and place can be different for each child. For some children, it may be while engaging in an activity and others may be in a calm and quiet setting.
When having the conversation Kuwahara said to ask questions and be in a space to listen but also pay attention to their body language and behavior.
“The most important thing is to be in a good place when you start the conversation so that you can create a comfortable place for them to open up,” said Kuwahara.”