Nearly six million children have anxiety and almost three million kids have depression, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with recent years showing cases of both mental health conditions are on the rise.
A new book, “Raising a Kid Who Can: Simple Strategies to Build a Lifetime of Adaptability and Emotional Strength,” is offering parents tips to help their children adapt to emotional challenges and support their mental health.
Book authors and mental health professionals Dr. Catherine McCarthy, Heather Tedesco and Jennifer Weaver joined “Good Morning America” Monday to share what they want parents to know.
Tedesco, a psychologist, hopes the book will give parents a starting point to help guide their children.
“We wrote the book to answer a question that parents ask a lot, which is: ‘What are the most important things for me to know in raising my kids?’ And so we took the best information that’s out there and combined it with our decades of professional experience and we came up with what we call the ten essentials,” Tedesco explained. “We organize this book to be a true guidebook. You can flip it open and drop in and out of it. You can find a few quick tips that you can use tonight or you can read it from beginning to end.”
Focus on the “3 R’s”
To start helping children build a strong mental foundation, McCarthy, a child and adolescent psychiatrist, recommends following what she calls the “3 R’s” – rest, recreation and routine. Sufficient sleep, as the CDC also suggests, can help kids’ brains reinforce what they learned while awake, which in turn can help treat anxiety and depression in young people.
“Sleep’s so important that we put it first in our book,” McCarthy said. “Lack of sleep can increase teen depression, can make it harder to pay attention in class and can even mimic ADHD. In deep sleep, the memory part of the brain hardwires what was studied during the day, so sleep can even help with learning.”
Focus on organizing emotions, not time
As children both start and return to school this fall, Weaver, a social worker and child therapist, said parents can work alongside their kids to help them get into a stable routine and tackle procrastination at its source.
“Procrastination isn’t actually a time management problem. It’s often a mood management problem,” said Weaver. “That means that if you help your kids organize their time, it may not be as effective as helping them just organize their emotions. So you might just ask them, ‘What does it feel like when you think about starting this assignment?’ And even them just saying it out loud, sometimes saying the feeling takes a little of the power out. That actually might help.”
Focus on the “validation sandwich”
For “GMA” viewer Terrence Hall, the father of a 14-year-old who wanted to know how to better support his only child’s confidence and respond to her fear of failure, Weaver suggested validating what the child is feeling.
“If you are able to connect with your kid about how they’re feeling and the kid feels really understood, that can really help them then listen to any other message you might have for them,” Weaver said. “We have something we call a ‘validation sandwich’ [in “Raising a Kid Who Can”]. And that’s where you take that confidence that you feel in your kid but you put it between two pieces of validation where you let them know that you get how they’re feeling about themselves.”
“So you might say something like ‘Oh, I know you’re really feeling down on yourself about math these days. Hey, I know you and you don’t give up easy, but man, it’s been rough,'” Weaver continued. “And notice how I didn’t say, ‘Oh, but you’re great at math. Don’t worry!’ because actually, that can be less confidence-building than really connecting with them.”
“If they know that you get how they feel but you think they can handle it,” Weaver said, “then that’s where confidence really arises.”
“Raising a Kid Who Can: Simple Strategies to Build a Lifetime of Adaptability and Emotional Strength” will be released Tuesday by Workman Publishing Company.