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5 ways to keep kids mentally, emotionally healthy this summer

By Heather Simonsen, KSL TV | Posted - Jun. 10, 2020 at 9:38 p.m.



WEST JORDAN — When the pandemic hit, a West Jordan mom saw it as an opportunity for more family time but now with the summer here, her kids are bursting at the seams to get out of the house and have fun.

Ellie Maher was looking forward to girls’ camp. “I was pretty bummed out,” said Ellie, who is 13 and lives with her family in West Jordan.

Her mother, Carissa Maher, said, “She was going to bunk with her best friend, and like my heart sank and it was just like a ripple effect. We just learned that all the camps were cancelled for the summer.”

Carissa worries about her children’s mental and emotional health. She also has two sons: Aiden, 15 and Quinten, 10. “I was grateful to have all of those commitments lifted and be home with my family but now it’s like, we’ve got to get out.”

Dr. Brooks Keeshin with the University of Utah and Primary Children’s Hospital says families can find creative ways to help.

Here are five real strategies for keeping kids safe and happy this summer.

Check in with kids

Ask kids how they are feeling. “If we assume what kids are struggling with, often times, we’re not correct,” said Keeshin, who is a child abuse pediatrician and child psychiatrist.

Validate their feelings

Show empathy by letting them know you understand.

“You know, ‘It is sad. It is disappointing,’ if that’s the feeling they’re expressing,” Keeshin said.

Discuss how to move forward

Brainstorm with your kids about ways you can do fun things from home this summer. Let them be a part of the solution.

For example, “What are some of the things that you were most looking forward to by going to the pool?” Keeshin said.

Focus on what they will miss about an event.

“What kind of things can we do from home that we’ve never done before that involve water?” Keeshin suggested. That way, you can work together to help fill that void.

Be mindful of your own stress

Watch your own stress levels. Choose activities that are feasible. “It’s OK to not add additional stress to you, because that also is helping your child as well,” Keeshin said.

Maintain social connections and support

Finally, while continuing social distancing, make sure that you maintain social connections and support.

“Reaching out to our friends or our family members or our community to say you know, ‘This is what I’m struggling with in our family. Who else has struggled with this and what advice do you have?'” Keeshin said.

Carissa encourages her kids to work on a hobby every day. “Just to get them to start embracing a dream or something they’ve always wanted to do,” she said. She is known for a weekly gathering she hosts in her front yard.

“When we come in from that, there’s just this calm. Everybody’s been filled a little bit,” she said.

Keeshin said, “More times than not, our kids are going to do quite well, and will show us how to survive during a pandemic better than any parents would have thought of on their own.”

Aiden Maher said, “I know we’re going to make it through this.” Making this family hopeful it’s going to be a fun summer after all.

Heather Simonsen

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