A YOSS Mental Health Minute
A Few Tips from Rabbi Yehuda B. Kamenetzky, M.Ed, NCC
Mental Health Counselor, Yeshiva of South Shore
I am not qualified to comment on the precedent of the worldwide panic and response to Coronavirus. Indeed, I have experienced fear and trauma as a cancer survivor, however, I am far too young to talk about such a global crisis.
However, I feel that the following ideas may be helpful.
One octogenarian I spoke to recalled the Asiatic Flu of 1957, and described the alarm that it caused as similar to the response we are witnessing to Covid-19.
Yet, the reality of the situation is that our children are home, and we are responsible for their safety and well-being. I am not here to talk about the hashkafa of such a crisis, nor will I lecture you about the effects of your own anxiety on your children. These points are extremely important, however, I am assuming that you have been inundated with emails and attended phone conferences from Rabbonim and experts addressing these issues from an emotional standpoint.
I would like to address this crisis from a behavioral perspective. Here are some evidence-based activities, which promote mental health well-being in tumultuous times:
· FEELINGS NOTEBOOK
Have your children record their feelings in a notebook. They can record either positive feelings or negative feelings. When children have a place where they unload their fears, worries and doubt, it can help externalize these negative feelings and help ease the burden that they tend to carry with them. I would encourage parents to review these notebooks together with your children and use them as a springboard to promote further discussion.
· GRATITUDE NOTEBOOK
Have your children choose one or two things in their lives for which they are grateful. They should expand on them, according to their age, on why they are grateful. Have them record these items in a notebook. Studies have shown that when individuals focus on gratitude, they tend to realize the good in their lives and lead happier and more fulfilling lives than their counterparts. Discuss these entries with your children. It will promote a healthier relationship between you and your children.
· OUTDOOR EXERCISE
I will not delve into the chemical responses that the body experiences when we exercise, but I cannot stress to you enough how important just getting outside is for our mental health well-being. Now, that the weather will iy"h be changing for the better, encourage your children to go for a walk, ride a bike, or play a sport of their choice. The opportunities are endless, and they will feel much better.
Allow space for your children to help, or if age appropriate, experiment in the kitchen. Children can be extremely creative and may find comfort in culinary activities. After all, you may have the next five-star chef under your nose. There are now kosher cooking school options and your children may discover a lifelong passion. On a personal level, my son recently developed an expertise in preparing the most delicious nachos.
Even though your children may not be a budding artists, there are plenty of options out there for them. With proper instruction, an art activity promotes relaxation. Explore some websites for projects. Adult coloring books and intricate paint-by-numbers are my personal favorites, but allow your children to choose. They may choose art with fabric, woodworking, or even metals. Encourage your children to explore and they will find something they enjoy.
Of course, in these times of uncertainty we will experience feelings of doubt and self-pity. I encourage parents as well to develop a hobby together with your children. It will greatly enhance your well-being and the relationship you have with your children.
Be prudent, stay safe, and until next time,
Yehuda B Kamenetzky, M.Ed, NCC