Radical Acceptance: Youth and Mental Health in 2020
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In this episode of the HealthTalks NOW podcast, Kendra and Kerri are joined for a phone conversation by Katelyn Arvin, LPCC the lead navigator of the Behavioral Health clinic at Baptist Health Richmond. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, this conversation focuses on some ramifications of the situation. Many parents have their hands full as they navigate work environments, finances, and health concerns, and it is easy to simply think of children as resilient and turn attention to other pressing issues. However, this conversation presents an opportunity to pause and consider more deeply the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on children.
Before turning to the topic at hand, Katelyn introduces herself to listeners by sharing about her background and work. She is Kentucky born and raised (even joining the conversation from Louisville). She currently works in the lovely community of Richmond and is an LPCC. In other words, she is a licensed therapist, and she specializes in crisis management and psychiatric evaluation. Katelyn works one-on-one with people who present in crisis. She holds space for them, talks with and provides guidance for them, and makes clinical recommendations. This work is her passion, and she loves to be able to give back to the community in this way.
As a brief aside, Katelyn also dives into what it means to “hold space” for someone. She understands the phrase to indicate allowing a person to come in crisis, approaching the individual with no judgment, and allowing for genuine and raw expression. Holding space entails support without reactivity or stigma, empathizing, and only then helping a person to find a way forward.
Transitioning to the main topic of the conversation, the host asks Kateyln about how isolation and quarantine have impacted children’s mental health and specifically wonders whether or not Katelyn has seen an increase in depression and anxiety among young people. With the pandemic being difficult even for adults with fully developed brains to process, no doubt it has also been a challenge for children. It will take time for the full ripple effects to be evident, but right away, some effects have been clear. These effects are in part shaped by the fact that a number of basic resources – even as basic as housing and food – were altered or rendered inaccessible as the country adapted to the pandemic. School, activities, daily structure, and peer interaction have been compromised for young people. These factors have all led to an increased incidence of anxiety among children.
One major theme that Katelyn has been highlighting is that of the importance of routine in the lives of children. Now, she focuses on this subject, clarifying that the lack of routine has the potential to disrupt a child’s functioning. Teens in particular, who are learning to navigate the world, thrive on structure and routine, and are negatively impacted by a lack of predictability in the world around them. This lack of predictability can produce an internal feeling of uncertainty, and to combat this, it is important during the season of the pandemic to practice radical acceptance of the inevitability of disruptions to routine, while at the same time creating new routines as it is possible to do so.
Turning her attention to parents listening to the episode, Katelyn offers insight on determining whether or not a child is struggling with mental health difficulties. If parents notice that their kids are withdrawn and lack interest and motivation, when should they be concerned? How can they distinguish between the common experience of teenage apathy and something more serious? Katelyn has these conversations often with concerned parents, and the concerns are especially troubling because the average onset of a mood disorder is at the age of 14. Katelyn recommends knowing one’s children and their baselines well and watching for deviations from baseline mood. She also suggests parents develop close relationships with their kids’ friends and other caregivers in order to gain insight from them. Parents should watch for signs of self-harm, as well as rapid cycling of mood swings.
But these are not the only symptoms parents should watch for that may indicate a serious problem. Stress and anxiety manifest differently in kids than in adults, and so parents need to be sure they’re watching for the right symptoms. With regard to the previously mentioned symptom of withdrawing and losing interest, Katelyn clarifies that parents should specifically watch for this in relation to a child’s typical activities and social circle. Parents should also watch out for a change in school performance and such physiological symptoms as sleep disturbance and appetite changes. They should have deep and open conversations with their kids during this season, and be on the lookout for an overall picture of mental health trouble, not an isolated symptom that is most likely a normal experience for a young person.
Katelyn clarifies that there are differences in how an older versus a younger child will manifest and process a mental health problem. Younger children do not have as much ability as older children to verbalize their mental lives, so parents should look for behavioral changes such as tantrums, aggression, and crying spells. Young children also sometimes turn to things like art for expression, so observing a child’s creative outlets may prove enlightening. Katelyn explains children’s capacity for complex thought, as well as the way their communication capacity develops over time. It is important for parents to model good communication skills, give space for expression and questions, help children with processing, and aid children in understanding that their feelings are okay and that conversation is safe.
When it comes to talking with high school- and college-aged kids about mental health, there are different challenges than there are with younger children. Older kids tend to be more resistant to a conversation with parents even when not struggling with mental health trouble, so parents should be resilient in their attempts to talk with their children. They can plant seeds over time, working little by little at helping their children to become more comfortable with the conversation. They should watch their language in starting conversations, communicate that their kids’ feelings are okay, give moments of power when kids can own and talk about their experiences, designate a time of day to try to talk, and – over time – give space for their kids to open up to them. It is also helpful for kids to have adults other than parents in their lives with whom they are comfortable talking.
Next, the conversation turns to the topic of technology, most specifically focusing on social media. Social media is known to contribute to some mental health problems, and so the question understandably arises as to whether or not increased screen access during quarantine is harmful to children’s mental health. Of course, Katelyn clarifies, social media opens the door for bullying, and so increased access brings with it increased opportunity for this behavior that is a detriment to mental health. However, at the same time, increased technology use in this season can be helpful in that it provides a connection to both peers and possibly clinical treatment. If parents monitor their kids’ social media and other technology use, the increased screen time could prove a positive thing.
Moving towards the conclusion of their conversation, Katelyn addresses the topic of kids going back to school from a mental health point of view. How can we deal with the uncertainty of this situation, and what coping skills might we employ? Katelyn reminds listeners of the human desire for control, and she recommends following an intentional practice of radical acceptance by taking one step at a time controlling what can be controlled and shifting focus from the uncontrollable (which the media highlights) to the controllable (such as a new routine). This will offer to ground to children. Further, parents should talk through school options with their kids, and build in time for self-care, joy, and relaxing.
Regarding self-care, Katelyn points out that children need the same kinds of self-care that adults need. So, parents have the chance to model healthy self-care for their kids. Self-care should involve routine and a schedule, with built-in time to address personal wellness. Factors such as sleep and diet should be addressed, and kids should be encouraged in healthy relationships and community. Parents can also help children by providing them with de-stressing techniques such as physical activity, relaxation methods, or such creative interventions as art and music. All of these things are pieces of an overall healthy puzzle.
In concluding the conversation, Katelyn and the host consider the topic of disappointment. This season is a time of disappointment for many, and Katelyn affirms that this disappointment may be aptly considered collective grief. And again, in light of this fact, new routine is important, as is decompressing and processing. We must accept that there will be sad days, but continue to press through them and realize that only represent a passing wave.
Key Takeaways:[0:49] – Listeners are introduced to Katelyn and the conversation topic. [1:33] – Katelyn shares about herself and her work at Baptist Health. [2:42] – The host asks if Katelyn can break down the phrase “holding space” for listeners who may not be familiar with it. [3:46] – Next, the host transitions to the main topic of the conversation, questioning how isolation and quarantine have affected children’s mental health. [6:35] – Katelyn and the host turn to the subject of routine and its connection to children’s functioning. [8:29] – The conversation partners switch gears to address parents about how to gauge whether or not their kids may be experiencing mental health difficulties requiring professional help. [11:11] – As stress, anxiety, and depression are not just adult issues but also plague children, the host wonders what other symptoms parents may notice in their children that would indicate a problem. [13:55] The host asks Katelyn if mental health symptoms vary by a child’s age. [15:27] – The conversation takes a slight turn to consider children and complex thought. [18:55] – Katelyn and the host discuss how parents can begin a conversation with their child about how that child is doing with regard to mental health. [22:29] – The conversation switches gears to address technology – most specifically social media – and its impact on kids during the pandemic. [24:31] – The episode host would now like to discuss the issue of kids going back to school, looking at from a mental health point of view. [27:03] – Katelyn provides self-care tips for children. [29:10] – This season is one marked by much disappointment, which can be aptly called grief, and which we must learn to navigate in helpful ways.
Learn more about Baptist Health.
Find a Baptist Health provider.
Connect with Katelyn Arvin and her Behavioral Health team at 859.544.8171
If you are having a mental health emergency or thoughts of suicide, don’t wait. Call 911, go to the emergency room, or call the National Suicide Prevention hotline at 1-800-SUICIDE.
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Speaker 2: All right. Well, we’re joined on the phone today with Katelyn Arvin, lead navigator at the Behavioral Health Clinic at Baptist Health, Richmond. This is an important conversation as parents are focused on remote work environments, finances and health concerns. We view children as resilient, right? We acknowledge the changes with play dates and time with friends, changes to routines and hobbies like sports, but we need to take some time today and discuss specifically the ramifications of COVID-19 and the effects on our children. As an expert in this field, Katelyn, thank you so much for being our guest today.
Katelyn Arvin: Thank you ladies, so much for having me. It’s a pleasure to be able to talk about this and have this important conversation on this platform. So the pleasure’s all mine.
Speaker 2: Of course. Start us off by telling us a little bit about yourself and the work you’re doing at Baptist Health. Katelyn Arvin: Originally from Louisville, I am Kentucky, born and raised, and I’m now working at Baptist Health, Richmond, in a really lovely community that I’m thankful to be a part of. What I’m doing specifically at Baptist Health, I’m an LPCC, which is just really a compilation of letters that say that I’m a licensed therapist and I specialize in crisis management and psychiatric evaluation. So what I’m doing at the hospital is I’m working one-on-one with folks that present in crisis at our facility and basically holding space for them to talk about what they’re experiencing and guide them through that moment. And then I can make clinical recommendations that we decide all together, myself and the individual, what is going to be most supportive and helpful for them at that time. It’s definitely my passion and I love what I do. And I’m really, really grateful to be able to give that back to the community in that way.
Speaker 2: That’s awesome. Just for someone who might be listening and unfamiliar with the term holding space, can you break that down. What exactly do you mean when you say that? Katelyn Arvin: So to me, my interpretation of holding space is, I’m allowing folks to come to me in crisis and basically approach them with no judgment and just allow them to express how they’re feeling very genuinely and in a raw way. And be there to support them and not have… No stigma, no reactivities, just allowing them to be how they are and how they’re feeling. And then I can empathize with that and support them and then move forward. Which I think is really important in mental health, because there is so much stigma surrounding what it is.
Speaker 1: Yeah, that’s important. That’s a very vulnerable time that you’re entering their life to get an accurate and honest assessment and treatment plan. That’s a great approach. Well, obviously this year has been difficult for everyone’s mental health, but I think it’s easy to overlook our children and assume they don’t understand, or they’re not affected like adults have been affected, but that’s just not the case. How do you think isolation and quarantine have affected our children’s mental health? Are we seeing more cases of anxiety or depression in our youth, as they’ve been away from family and friends?
Katelyn Arvin: That’s a really good point of conversation. So definitely important to think about our children and our youth and how they’re processing this. But I know even as an adult, with a fully developed brain, it’s hard to wrap around a global pandemic. I mean, we’re all having trouble processing. So if you think about someone that’s still on brain development and learning how to navigate the world, it’s very overwhelming and scary. I mean, I think it is for all of us.
Katelyn Arvin: So specifically though, the question you asked about the isolation and the quarantine, how that is going to affect mental health, I think it’s going to take some time to see the ripple effects, overall, of how COVID is having an impact on our youth. But there’s definitely some immediate things we are seeing. First of all, a lot of our resources in our mental health community have been altered or discontinued or changed because of adapting to COVID. So a lot of things, at least initially, weren’t as accessible to kids. And a lot of those resources, those foundational resources, I’m talking about basics like food and housing, child and family services involvement, and things of that nature were altered. And those resources or the lack thereof is what I mean. They can cause distress. And oftentimes not being in school or being a part of daily activities, sometimes kids that maybe didn’t have that same structure at home, didn’t have those resources and that might be times where they see the most structured adult. And so that can be very distressing as well. Katelyn Arvin: And then, of course, it goes without saying, just the physical isolation for teens is hard because they’re at a stage of development in their lives where social interaction is very important for them. In fact, it’s probably one of the most important things at where they’re at developmentally. So it’s important to try to foster any sort of connection that you can during this time, to not completely discontinue it for them. And I can say from being in the field, we definitely have seen a lot of increased anxiety in particular. And I think that’s because of the unknown of everything.
Speaker 2: Sure. Well, one thing that strikes a chord with your answer is the importance of routine. And that’s something I want to discuss now with you is, especially among young people, does this disruption to the routine, from what we’ve seen this year, does it have the potential to upset their functioning? Katelyn Arvin: It does have the potential, I do think it has the potential to do that. Because in particular, when teens are learning to navigate the world, they thrive on structure and routine. It’s helping set that framework of functionality and what to expect, how to navigate through your day. And so particularly when something is unpredictable and unknown, as a pandemic is occurring and not only is it disrupting their day-to-day, children are like, and youth, in general, are sponges. They absorb what’s going on around them. And adults too, their routine is thrown off then they absorb that, they see that and it causes an internal feeling of uncertainty. So I think we must practice some radical acceptance of the fact that our routines are going to be disrupted, but then creating new routines that we have control over when adhering to as much consistency as we can, will be important for teens moving forward.
Speaker 2: That’s so good.
Speaker 1: Yeah. I love that.
Speaker 2: I see that even with my preschoolers, that if I simply tell them, “Okay, this is what’s going to happen next. And then after that, we’re going to do this and this is how it’s going to be.” Even if they’re not following their routine, exactly what you said, just knowing what’s coming, relieves so much of that unknown for them, that they can much easier adapt.
Speaker 1: Mm-hmm (affirmative). To have the expectations set out already.
Speaker 2: Yeah.
Speaker 1: Sure.
Speaker 2: It’s just easier for them to fall into a new normal.
Speaker 1: Yeah, let’s talk to the parents listening. Maybe they’re noticing their child is more withdrawn and lacks interest and motivation. At what point should they be concerned? How can parents distinguish between what might be considered teenage apathy versus more serious?
Katelyn Arvin: I have this conversation often with parents when I work with them in crisis, with their teens. Anyone that has been a parent or has a sibling, or has interacted with a teenager knows that teenage apathy is not necessarily uncommon. It’s actually probably part of their hormonal development and how they’re changing. But around the actual average age of onset of a mood disorder is about 14, that’s when we start to see symptoms and that can be very confusing with typical development. So it’s really important to know who they are as an individual, and then start to recognize what is atypical of their personal behavior.
Katelyn Arvin: So of course, some big warning signs would be, if this is a normally vivacious individual, that’s like very talkative and very social, and even a slight decrease in that, something that’s not at their baseline, that’s what we know to look forward to. Also, it’s important to, if possible, establish relationships with your children’s friends, their caregivers in their lives, because they’re typically going to reach out to their friends as well, to tell them how they’ve been feeling. So making a strong social network is really important. Having open conversations is very important. Typically teenagers will start to engage in self-harming behaviors around this age. So looking for signs of cutting or self-harm would be important. Katelyn Arvin: And then mood swings also are something to look forward, as far as like rapid cycling. So I think it’s pretty normal for teenagers to go through highs and lows kind of periodically, but when the mood starts to be very rapidly cycling, going from irritability to happiness, to anger, back to sadness and withdrawn, and when that’s happening with higher frequency and the duration of that mood swing is becoming different, that’s something to be concerned with. And that’s when we probably need to look into setting up some professional help to see what the best course of action would be.
Speaker 1: That’s a really good tip, that makes good sense. That not every kid is going to be the same. You need to know your kid and what’s different for them.
Speaker 2: And I love the point of getting to know your child’s friends too. So you also know who’s impacting your child. Stress, anxiety, depression, these are not just adult issues as we’ve already established. What are some of the symptoms a caregiver might notice that might indicate their child is struggling with their mental health? We mentioned some, the mood swings, looking for self-harm behavior. Are there any other things that stand out to you that you see on a pretty typical basis that are reported from parents or caregivers?
Katelyn Arvin: Yes. So some signs of distress in general with teens, it’s really important to know that they manifest differently than adults. Teens express themselves differently. They’re in a totally different mindset in a developmental stage in their life. So I think we had touched on earlier, withdrawing behaviors, as in not participating in their normal activities, losing interest in their normal activities, is something to look for. It’s typical for a child to explore new interests, though there’s something they’re very passionate about and we start to see that joy dwindle. There’s a star basketball player or a kid that loves music and loves art, but suddenly is just losing that light and passion for that, that’s something to look at. We need to explore if there’s a sense of hopelessness there or a lack of interest rather. As well as, withdrawing from their social circle is important.
Katelyn Arvin: A drop in grades, a change in school performance, or other activities like volunteer activities, just a change in their performance is something to notice. As well as physiological symptoms, that’s very important in teens. Lack of sleep or sleep disturbance, appetite changes, are very important to look at. And also, just having conversations with your kids, how is their mood? How are they feeling? What are they passionate about? What is its purpose? And just getting some information from them about how they’re feeling, and if that’s changing from what you know to be your kid, that’s time to really have some deeper conversations.
Katelyn Arvin: It’s important too to note that, we don’t want to look for just one isolated symptom of distress, in teens, it’s an overall picture. It’s hard because kids have a tough time at that age. Your teenage years, you’re trying to figure out who you are and establish yourself in the world. So a little bit of distress in any of these areas is not concerning, but as a mental health professional, I would say it is concerning when we look at the big picture of the functionality like you just said, and that’s when we need to look at, okay, let’s get some extra professional support here.
Speaker 2: Yeah. That makes sense. Do these symptoms vary by age? We’ve touched on the teenage years, would you expect to see the same thing, say in a younger child or an elementary school-aged child? Do they express these worries or sadness differently than say a teenager?
Katelyn Arvin: So when we’re dealing with kids, 10 and under, their perception of the world is different. Their prefrontal cortex and their brain are still really under rapid development. So they can’t express as complex or abstract thoughts as teens start to develop and be able to do that. And so you’re going to definitely be able to get the more verbal, in-depth conversation out of a teen than you would a child, a younger child. So with younger kids, we’re looking for behavioral outbursts more, this can be tantrum-like behavior, which can look like crying spells, or it can look more aggressive, as in not violent in a sense, but just overt displays of aggression, like kicking and screaming. Also, we can look for them to express themselves in another outlet like drawing. We can always look for it in writing. They kind of express themselves that way. So definitely important to keep in a context where this child is age-wise and their development, and how they would be able to express themselves. That’s a very good point.
Speaker 2: You mentioned the complex thought, are children under the age of 10, are they having those complex thoughts, they just don’t know how to articulate them? Or does the thought process not develop yet at that level until they’re a little bit older? Katelyn Arvin: So children, in my experience, are like you had said earlier, very resilient beings. And they’re very aware of themselves. They’re aware of their body and their minds, but communication is what changes over time. So it’s the ability to communicate. As we grow older, actually, our prefrontal cortex, which is a part of that brain that’s responsible for a lot of our higher functioning and complex functioning isn’t fully developed until we’re in our late 20s. So you can imagine, when you’re younger and there’s rapid growth happening, a lot of times we will recognize, intuitively kids will, that we have feelings. Like something is uncomfortable for me, I don’t feel right about something, but I just don’t know how to express it. And the communication piece is what really rapidly grows in teens.
Katelyn Arvin: So that’s why though it is, in my opinion, important for parents, and adults and caregivers in younger children’s lives to start modeling good communication at a very early age. And giving space for children to talk about, express themselves, and asking questions. Like, “I see that you’re really upset right now. Tell me a little bit more about that.” Or, “I noticed that you’re feeling really down lately. Can you tell me a little bit more about that?” Or “I’m here to listen in any way possible.” So it will become easier for, as children grow into teens, to express how they’re feeling in a verbal sense. But I think at any time it’s good to hold space for them, in the family setting and let them know it’s okay to feel how you’re feeling. But I do want us to talk about it and acknowledge it. If that makes sense.
Speaker 2: Yeah. It makes total sense. It’s helping them acknowledge and understand what they’re feeling and giving them words for it. So they can later recognize when they feel it again and they know what to call it, and they know that it’s okay to feel it.
Katelyn Arvin: It’s identifying it. Sometimes that’s the hardest part for kids is like, “I know I don’t feel right, but I’m not sure why, and I’m not sure how to say it.” So it’s identifying that. And then even if we can’t elaborate on it further, just letting them know that there’s space to do that. And it’s safe to talk to their parents or caregivers about it, is so important because that builds trust. And that makes it a safe space to talk about things.
Speaker 2: I have a four-year-old and I find it helpful for her when I will kind of narrate back to her what’s happening if she’s having a tantrum or having a really difficult time with something. So instead of saying like, “Calm down or don’t cry,” instead of saying that saying, “Gosh, you’re really upset right now…
Katelyn Arvin: Yes.
Speaker 2: … that really disappointed you, didn’t it? What’s going on with that?” It gives her that tool to then know that, okay, it’s okay to be disappointed.
Speaker 1: Sure.
Speaker 2: And that’s what this feeling is.
Speaker 1: Yeah. You’re giving her tools to articulate.
Katelyn Arvin: Yes.
Speaker 2: Yeah.
Speaker 1: Yeah. Let’s talk more about starting that conversation to get some tips. So we’re assuming that there’s someone listening right now to this conversation that thinks that they have some evidence that their child is struggling. We really hit home on younger children, but how do we start a conversation with a high schooler or even a college student who may be struggling?
Katelyn Arvin: That’s a good point because I know there’s someone listening right now that says, “I have a teenager,” or is thinking, “I have a teenager and they’re not really up for talking.” And that’s normal. You know, a little bit of that resistance is normal. But what I would say would be, be resilient in your attempts to have those conversations, but planting little seeds there, are important. We might not get them to open up right away about everything that’s going on, but planting the seed to let them know that it’s okay to have that conversation, is the place to start.
Katelyn Arvin: And it’s coming from, watching your language is very important when you’re starting those conversations. And I think you modeled it earlier when you said, I don’t have an explanatory reaction to things, it’s important to come from a calm place and just say, “It’s okay to feel however you’re feeling. There’s nothing wrong with that feeling inherently. But I noticed that that’s different for you.” Or, “I notice that you haven’t been sleeping so very much,” or, “I’ve noticed that you are not interested in going to soccer anymore. Do you care to tell me why you feel that way?” Katelyn Arvin: And giving them a little bit of power, right, to own it and talk about it because teenagers, they want independence. They want to be able to make decisions. And although we’re still here at that phase to guide them through that and help them refine their decision-making skills, we need to put the ball in their court a little bit and allow them the space to have the conversation. And if you continue to try, at least, maybe there’s one part of the day where you designate, this is the time where I’m going to, they’re relaxed and they’re comfortable, and this is the time of day I’ll try to have this conversation. And over time, allowing them that space to open up can be really helpful. And also with teenagers, having other adults in their life too, that they feel like rapport and close to, is important. Obviously, parents need to be in the know, but a coach, a teacher, a counselor at school, these are all folks too, that can be checking in and implementing conversations.
Speaker 2: We’ll be right back. At Baptist Health, we focus on the whole person, body, mind, and spirit. Our behavioral health services provide care for individuals dealing with mental illness, such as anxiety, depression, and drug and alcohol dependency. With treatment plans tailored to meet each person’s needs, we help our patients understand and manage their conditions. With locations serving the communities of Corbin, Richmond, Madisonville, Louisville, and Southern Indiana, Baptist Health is here for a healthier you. Find a behavioral health provider near you at baptisthealth.com/provider.
Speaker 2: We’re back with Kaitlin Arvin to continue the discussion on youth mental health. Let’s transition out of social media. There are numerous studies that show the impact frequent social media use has on mental health. The comparison, self-esteem concerns, bullying, et cetera. I’m sure you were treating the fallout from this long before this pandemic, but since we’ve been isolated so much this year, the use of technology has skyrocketed, I’m sure. Are we seeing adverse impacts on young people, given the increased amount of time they’re spending on screens and connecting with their peers through social media?
Katelyn Arvin: Bullying is one of the top 10 identified concerns and challenges that teens go through. So I do think with increased screen time, is more opportunity for that to occur. However, I do also think that social media in a regimen with structure, can be a positive thing during this time, because it is a tool that’s going to allow teenagers to still connect with each other. If their family and they are practicing social distancing and wanting to be as safe as possible in the line of COVID, it’s going to allow them to not only still connect with peers in a social way, but it can also give them access to clinical treatment.
Katelyn Arvin: Like telehealth has been a huge, monumental tool during all this to try to bridge that gap that I was talking about earlier of access to care. So I do believe that while social media can be ground, if not used safely and appropriately for cyberbullying, amongst other really harmful things, human trafficking, things like that in teenage lives that are extremely high-risk behaviors. If parents are heavily involved, monitoring social media use and it’s used safely in an inappropriate time context, I think it can actually be a positive thing and foster connection, both socially and clinically.
Speaker 2: Well, let’s wrap up with the thing that’s on everybody’s mind right now, back to school. There’s a lot left to be determined and much uncertainty still reigns as to what the coming school year will look like. So while we obviously can’t answer the question, will we or won’t we? We certainly have a vested interest in the safety of our community. Let’s look at this issue from the mental health point of view, how do we deal with so much uncertainty? What are some coping tools that parents can share with their families as they navigate something so unfamiliar?
Katelyn Arvin: Uncertainty is what’s, in my opinion, clinically creating so much distress. We as humans like to have a sense of control over what’s going on. And when we don’t, it sends us into a bit of a panic. The first place to start with the uncertainty is to practice some radical acceptance that we don’t know exactly what the answer is, and then practice that radical acceptance but moving intuitive, “We’re going to take this one step at a time. And there are many things that we can control, even though there are things that we can’t.” So shifting our mental focus onto what can you control, is very grounding, is very helpful, especially for a kid who is going back to school.
Katelyn Arvin: Here in Madison County, there’s multiple options for children returning to the school year, as of now, I know it’s ever-changing. So parents having conversations with their kids about their options, “Here’s X, Y, and Z. What we can do approaching the school year. What do you think? And tell me why.” And then coming to a decision as a family is very helpful. And then practicing the good things that you do have control over will give you that sense of normalcy. Like your appetite, like your sleep, like your new daily routine. That no is not the same as before, but this is our new routine and we do have control over this now. And then making it a priority to have some time in there for some self-care, for some joy, for some time to relax, will be really important as well. The media and everything really focuses on what we can’t control, which is going to stir up anxiety in anybody. But we need to shift the overall mindset to bring it back, again and to be grounded. “Okay, what can I control? And let’s implement those things now.”
Speaker 2: Sure. I love that. What are some self-care tips for kids? I think we spend a lot of time talking about, especially moms, making sure they get the self-care they need, but what about our kids?
Katelyn Arvin: Right. So our kids do really need to implement the same self-care that we as adults are now realizing are so important. I think adults can really model that self-care behavior for children and teens and make it a priority. And some things that they can do obviously is to make a daily routine and making a schedule to schedule time to address their overall wellness is so important. We’re in a culture of hustle and bustle, and get as much done in the day as possible. And it’s easy to do, it’s the culture we live in, but making time for a balanced diet, making time for sleep, children and teens need an excessive amount of sleep. I mean, their body is rapidly growing. So giving them the basic, foundational fuel they need, which is sleep is very important.
Katelyn Arvin: But also encouraging kids to learn about healthy relationships, what that looks like and surrounding themselves with a good community of people, be it individual friendships, intimate relationships, your church, or your religious affiliation, learning what those look like, so teens can cultivate a healthy life, overall, is really important. As well as giving them some de-stressing techniques. You know, that can be a physical activity, some way to release energy like running a sport, or it could be a relaxation techniques like mindfulness techniques or yoga. There’s also creative interventions, like music, art, some type of creative modality to release some of that energy. All of these things are pieces that make a healthy puzzle. If that makes sense.
Speaker 2: Yeah, it makes good sense.
Speaker 1: Absolutely. There’s a certain expectation of what school would look like this year. So another facet of this conversation is disappointment. Maybe it included field trips or dropping kids off on their first day of kindergarten, but now parents are facing purchasing face masks and understanding restrictions, potentially moving their child to non-traditional learning or homeschooling while juggling the responsibilities of life that existed before so much change. Is it accurate to call what people are feeling as they face this disappointment grief? What can families do in terms of all this change to adapt?
Katelyn Arvin: I think it’s very fair to say that we’re experiencing grief right now, collectively. I mean, what we used to expect and what we’re experiencing pre-COVID is no more. This is, I’ve heard the term new normal, quite often.
Speaker 1: Yeah.
Speaker 2: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Katelyn Arvin: And so it’s very appropriate and understandable for children, teens, and families too, to be disappointed and grieve and wish things could go back to the way that they were, because that’s what we’re used to. I mean, that’s a normal human response. I think what families can do though, in terms of this change, after practicing that radical acceptance is to make new routines that make most sense to them and to give time to decompress and voice how they’re feeling to process that. Not to just stuff it all in and pretend that, “Okay, everything’s fine. This is the new normal now.” No that’s not realistic. So let’s talk about it and let’s process it.
Katelyn Arvin: And that speaking it into existence is healing in and of itself. When you’re talking about how you’re feeling, those emotions aren’t as big and powerful anymore, and we can move through them. And there will… I think it’s important to accept that there will be days of sadness. There are going to be days that are going to be harder than others.
Speaker 1: Yeah.
Katelyn Arvin: There’s going to be days where it’s just getting the kids up and getting them through the day and that’s going to happen sometimes. But realizing that overall, not getting stuck in those moments, realizing this is more of a wave and we have to rocket it, through its highs and lows, because it’s a journey. And not getting stuck in one bad day or one bad moment, is how I think we could approach moving through some of this grief and change.
Speaker 1: Katelyn, thank you for joining us for this important and timely conversation.
Speaker 2: Yeah. It’s been a great discussion about concerning issues that are impacting a lot of our listeners during times of such uncertainty right now. Speaker 1: You’ve given us helpful tips on dealing with various issues and you’ve covered a lot of ground. We now have practical strategies that we can start implementing with our own families. Speaker 2: To get in touch with Katelyn or the Behavioral Health Clinic at Baptist Health, Richmond, call (859) 544-8171. And if you or a loved one are experiencing a mental health emergency or having thoughts about suicide, please don’t wait, go to the nearest emergency room or call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention lifeline at 1-800-SUICIDE. That’s +1 800-273-8255. Join us next time. And don’t miss an episode by subscribing to HealthTalks NOW. A podcast brought to you by Baptist Health.
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