How to help boost the mental health of children

It was undoubtedly a challenging school year for many children. Now they can face new ones during the summer months.

Parents often encourage a healthy lifestyle for their kids, through vitamins or perhaps healthy food and exercise, but it can be easy to forget about the importance of boosting their mental health. A doctor from New Horizon Hospital in Houston shares some ideas to promote a healthy mindset at home.


"As a neuropsychologist, I view mental health as hand-in-hand with brain health. Because with every second, our brain is taking in and processing information and our experiences. We are then interpreting them and making decisions, and this includes our emotional responses to situations," states Dr. Alyzae Karim, the Director of the Neuropsychology Department at New Horizon Hospital.

Dr. Karim suggests parents make sure their children are staying busy, then they don't have too much free time to think about any challenges they may be dealing with.

"It's so important for them to keep active and busy with their hobbies, learning new things, and it can be something as simple as going and playing outside. We know that physical activity increases the blood flow in our brain and makes cognitive function stronger. Sunlight, just natural sunlight, enhances serotonin, which is a chemical responsible for our mood. Camp has been really popular with the families I've been working with, and it's a great way for children to skill-build and to learn new things in a really fun environment," states Dr. Karim.

Plus, she encourages parents to help kids truly master a skill!

"Mastery or skill-building helps the pre-frontal cortex of the brain. It makes it stronger and work more effectively!  That's the part of the brain right behind our forehead, and it's responsible for lots of different functions, like our executive skills. By engaging children in activities that promote skill-building or mastery, we are strengthening those connections and the prefrontal cortex," explains Dr. Karim.

Dr. Karim hopes more families will feel comfortable getting out more since many have felt trapped at home for a year.

"With the COVID vaccines being more readily available now, people are starting to reintegrate back into their communities, and by doing so, this is a great way to incorporate all of the different recommendations that we have to promote mental health. This is a way that parents and families can stay positive, they can learn new things and keep their brain stimulated by engaging in lots of different fun activities, rather than staying at home and watching TV, so it's a great way to really promote positive mental health by reintegrating back into your community," says Dr. Karim.


She encourages parents to openly talk about mental health with their children. Getting creative with the little ones can pull out their feelings.

"I really love to use art and have little ones draw their feelings, in order for them to express themselves. And by doing this, parents can really get an understanding of what a child is going through, to understand their perspective of maybe why they're feeling a certain way. By having those open conversations, we can really be proactive and how we want to help children deal with their mental health," states Dr. Karim.

Mental health is often misunderstood and thought of as something just going on in your mind. Dr. Karim encourages everyone to remember, it's all about the brain.

"We treat medical conditions that target a specific organ in the body, like heart disease, we target the heart with breathing difficulties we target the lungs. It's really important to talk about our brain when we're addressing mental health because our emotions are being processed there," explains Dr. Karim.

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