Parenting through Lockdown
Dr Ferrin on the Food Bank Show
Dr Maite Ferrin, Consultant Child & Adolescent Psychiatrist at Re:Cognition Health was a guest on the Food Bank Show, talking about her role specialising in mental health and giving advice on how to help children through lockdown and the role of food and nutrition in supporting mental health.
We are all living through a challenging situation but for those with mental health concerns or anxiety and depression the effects can manifest behavioural symptoms, which is often a reflection of how they are feeling inside.
Dr Ferrin expresses the importance of having open and age appropriate conversations with children and adolescents to discuss and explore how they are feeling and being affected by the situation. This will help in finding solutions for managing the behaviour. It’s also important not to lie to children and adolescents, conversations should be frank and honest to avoid losing trust. The language we use and information we deliver will be very different between a 3 year old and adolescents. Not all children will want or need to know the same information so it’s important to be reassuring, letting them know that we are there for them and remaining positive at all times.
As parents and guardians, we need to learn to support children so they are equipped to deal with stress when they are older. It is important to find ways of dealing with anxiety and a good idea to explore different methods.
It is essential to keep low anxiety levels around children as this is picked up by children and can have a negative effect on them and how they stress.
Dr Ferrin explained that physical and mental health which are intrinsically linked; we need to look after ourselves physically to support mental health which includes exercise, sleep and nutrition.
The more fruit and vegetables we have, the better for our mental health. Children’s brains are growing and developing and nutritionally dense food plays a big role in supporting the health and performance. If children struggle with vegetables, try experimenting with different ways of cooking or flavour combinations and involve the children in preparing the food; it’s not only a bonding exercise but they will also feel valued and are more likely to eat (or at least try) the meal!
Dr Ferrin advises eating meals together as a family and stresses the importance of children eating breakfast – children are not able to focus or perform effectively without sustenance to get them through the morning. Also, it is important to remember that, according to studies, a Mediterranean diet (e.g., natural ingredients, rich in vegetables and fruits, low saturated fats) has shown effective to reduce depression, and that this effect remains in the long term.
The amount of sleep required differs from person to person. The younger the child, the more sleep is required. The most important thing is establishing a consistent routine which involves going to sleep and waking at the same time each day and getting quality, uninterrupted sleep.
During the lockdown many Adolescents are reversing their day to night cycle which includes staying up later and sleeping in later which means they don’t see the light in the morning and the body can become confused. Routine is essential and should be not too dissimilar for the usual school week routine.
We are lucky to be experiencing beautiful sunshine at the moment and we should all be taking advantage of this. 25% of population are deficient in Vitamin D and the best source comes from sunshine. Vitamin D contributes to physical and mental health so it’s important to be taking advantage of the rays throughout lockdown.
It is essential to maintain routine exercising to help both our physical and our mental health too. Obesity is linked to a higher cardiovascular risk and higher risk or cancer, amongst other conditions. Obesity and depression are also bi-directionally related, with scientific studies showing people with obesity suffer more from depression, and those with depression have a 60% risk of obesity.
To watch the full video with more tips and advice from Dr Ferrin visit:
The team at Re:Cognition Health are currently offering video consultations. For further information visit: https://recognitionhealth.com/videoconsultations/
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