In my practice as a psychologist, I always start with a platform of sleeping, eating, and device use! You cannot build a house upon an unsteady foundation, and you cannot nurture good mental and physical wellbeing upon poor nutrition, unpredictability, fatigue, and excessive exposure to screens!
Below are some tips for building a foundation that will help nurture good mental and physical health:
Sleep: Having a bedtime routine, and ensuring enough sleep is crucial to health and functioning for people of all ages. A routine (or otherwise known as sleep hygiene) helps establish good sleep habits, that nurture a stable and consistent foundation for your child or teenagers body and mind to function upon.
Some healthy sleep habits include the following:
Adopt regular sleep and wake times (even on weekends, and during Covid Isolation).
No devices within 1 hours of bedtime (the light confuses the brain and affects the sleep chemical known as Melatonin).
Avoid sugar later in the day.
Make the sleep space cosy and with minimal light.
Ensure your child/teenager gets some outdoor physical activity during the day.
Avoid napping in the day for school age and teenage children.
If your child/teenager has a busy brain prior to bed, get them to write down or draw some of their thoughts on paper in the lead up to bed, rip the paper up, and put the paper in the bin.... dispose of the unnecessary thoughts.
Make the time prior to bed relaxing, including reading, deep breathing, listening to music…. Basically, quiet time.
Current guidelines recommend the following amount of sleep for children/teenagers:
Toddlers: 12 to 13 hours in the night, and 1-2 hours during the day.
Preschoolers: 11-13 hours in the night, and possibly a nap in the day.
School age: 9-11 hours sleep at night
Teenagers: 8-10 hours sleep per night
Eating: Research has found a strong relationship between food and mood. Specifically, both eating routines and nutritious food have been found to contribute to mental and physical wellbeing.
Children and teenagers need predictability and consistency, as it helps them feel safe, secure, and protected. Eating a stable diet at regular intervals has been shown to contribute to better sleep, stronger immunity, more daily energy, improved concentration, and emotional stability (including reduced symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression).
Current guidelines depend on how much activities children are undertaking, however, here are some general recommendations:
Toddlers and Preschoolers: 3 meals and 2-3 snacks per day
School age and Teenagers: 3 meals and 1-2 snacks per day
In terms of nutrition, click the link below. It provides some recommendations that may be helpful, or you may like to consult a dietitian or nutritionist.
Screens: Research has found that around 90% of Australian children aged 5-14 years are on screens each week, and over half of those children are on screens for more than 10 hours per week. Excessive screen use has been shown to contribute to poor sleep, poor diet, and increased symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Current guidelines recommend the following amount of device use for children/teenagers:
Babies: No screens for children 1 year and below
Toddlers and preschoolers: Maximum of 1 hour per day of sedentary screen time (including TV)
School age and teenagers: Maximum of 2 hours per day of sedentary screen time (including TV)
Some other tips around screen time include:
No devices within an hour before bedtime
Charge devices away from bedrooms
Turn off notifications and limit the frequency of device checking
With everything our families have been through in the last couple of months, and lack of school or work routines, it is very easy to let ourselves and our kids get into bad habits. Don't despair.... with a little patience and perseverance, we can get things back on track!
Remember......we are here to help. If you need any help, give me a call or email:
02 8545 0137 OR firstname.lastname@example.org