DENVER – In case of a mid-air emergency, flight crews tell you to put on your own oxygen mask before you can help children with theirs. As National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Month gets underway, experts say it’s crucial to take the same approach when dealing with kids and mental health.
“We should always be thinking about how do we take care of ourselves first, so that we’re able to take care of them as well or anyone else in our homes,” said Evelin Gomez, a University of Colorado associate professor and program director at the Kempe Center, a non-profit focused on the prevention and treatment of child abuse and neglect.
Together with COACT Colorado, Children’s Hospital Colorado and Partners for Children’s Mental Health, Gomez recently put out a video with tips for parents to help kids deal with mental health stressors caused by COVID-19. But parents can’t forget their own mental health, either.
“This has given us an opportunity to be able to say ‘Jeez, I really need to see how I need to take care of myself or what it is that I’m doing to take care of myself so I can actually take care of my children,'” Gomez told FOX31.
So how do parents, grandparents and other caregivers take care of themselves in times like these?
“I think it’s really important that you tell your kids or whoever you’re with that you need a moment. When everyone’s home, there’s probably no place to go, maybe the bathroom is the only place to go. You go in there, and you just kind of take a breath and think about, ok, what’s happening, I need to calm myself down. The other thing you can do is think about all those people around you, probably your friends, your neighbors, other family that you can call or you can reach out and talk to when you’re feeling upset,” Gomez said.
She says it’s important to recognize when that stress is boiling over, and remember it can’t be shoved aside.
“If we start to feel a certain way in our bodies, we start to recognize what is happening that maybe we’re becoming a little upset, we’re frustrated, we’re finding that sadness, or we just don’t want to talk to anybody, so those are important to recognize to know that there’s something going on that we probably need to do something different,” Gomez said.
For tips on how to talk to your kids about mental health, visit COACT Colorado’s website.