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Wellness

Especially after experiencing the multitude of changes brought on by the pandemic, new norms, and overhaul of our previously established roles and routines, what better time to focus on wellness! As OTs, we utilize our knowledge of how engagement in meaningful occupations promotes a person’s overall well-being. Our goal is to share with you how to support health promotion and wellness through discussions about listening and co-regulation, growth mindset, nutrition, exercise, sleep, mindfulness, and recommendations of other helpful professions/services that may also be useful for you and your family. 

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Co-Regulation and Attentiveness

Support. Responsiveness. Modeling. Nurturing. There is an incredible occurrence that can be observed between parents/caregivers and the children they care for. This phenomenon is called co-regulation, and it begins early in a child’s life. Co-regulation is the process by which an adult caregiver helps to shape the emotional and self-regulation of a child by also regulating their own body. Essentially, body signals and energy level exhibited by an adult informs a child’s regulation and change in the nervous system. Pair this fascinating trend with intentional listening, and adults can help optimize social skills and emotional development in children. As occupational therapists, we model and educate about a variety of sensory strategies and resources to facilitate this process! Soothing music, breathing techniques, deep pressure, dimmed lights, calming aromas, and slow rocking are only a few of the strategies that we as adults can use for ourselves and for supporting our kiddos.

Nutrition

Eat the rainbow! Did you know that different colored foods support different parts of our body? Yellow foods like bell peppers, bananas, and yellow squash can help support your immune system! Purple and blue foods like grapes, eggplant, and blueberries can help your brain, memory, and focus! Green foods can help support strong bones and GI system to keep things running smoothly. Providing our bodies with nutritious foods can help enhance our performance and participation in important daily activities. When filling up your plate for a meal, be sure to fill half of your plate with fruits and veggies and leave the other half of the plate for protein and whole grains. 

Meal planning: Having a plan can eliminate unnecessary stress around mealtime. It can be extremely beneficial to include the whole family in the meal planning and preparation process. Try having each family member choose a meal to help make during the week! This gives everyone in the family the opportunity to have some control over mealtime. During meal preparation, get the kids in the kitchen! There are important kitchen tasks for people of all ages! 

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Growth Mindset

Before learning can happen, one must BELIEVE they have the ability to learn! 

A growth mindset is vital for both adults and children. As a caregiver, instilling a growth mindset in your child can help promote executive functioning development and overall well-being and success. A growth mindset is rooted in how we view ourselves. By improving the way we view ourselves, we are directly impacting our wellbeing! 

What is a growth mindset? 

  • An individual with a growth mindset views their intelligence, expertise and success as a result of their effort; meanwhile an individual with a fixed mindset views these things as a result of their fixed traits or abilities. 

  • A growth mindset recognizes the brain and talent as a starting point and that mastery can be achieved through effort; while a fixed mindset views skills as either you have it or you don’t— it doesn’t matter how hard you try. 

  • A growth mindset embraces and tackles challenges, while a fixed mindset uses negative self talk to avoid trying new challenges (“that’s just not my thing”).

  • A growth mindset receives feedback and criticism as opportunities to grow and develop while a fixed mindset finds this feedback judgmental. 

With these distinct differences between a growth and fixed mindset, the importance of a growth mindset becomes all the more evident. As caregivers we can promote a growth mindset in children through a variety of approaches including:

  • Teach how learning happens (teach about the brain!) empower them through education on neuroplasticity and neuro synapses

  • Use growth mindset language: 

  • “You must have worked really hard” versus “You must be smart at this”

  • Use growth mindset language for yourself 

  • “I need to try a new way” versus “I give up” 

  • Provide children with feedback and directions for how they can improve/try again

  • Put a larger focus on growth and learning than performance/task completion

Check out these resources for more information regarding the growth mindset:

Growth Mindset: How to Develop Growth Mindset | Understood - For learning and thinking differences

5 Strategies for Building a Growth Mindset in Your Child | L.A. Parent (laparent.com)

Additional Resources

https://recipes.doctoryum.org/en/makers

Dr. Yum's "Meal-O-Matics" that helps families build their own personalized meals based on ingredients you already have on hand!

 

Amazon.com: The Picky Eater Project: 6 Weeks to Happier, Healthier, Family Mealtimes (9781581109818): Muth, Natalie Digate: Books

The Picky Eater Project- Natalie Digate Muth and Sally Sampson. This book provides suggestions for how to get kids of each age involved in the cooking/dining process with specific examples of kitchen tasks they can help with!

 

https://www.myplate.gov/life-stages/kids

Myplate – US Department of Agriculture – wealth of parent and child resources to promote healthy eating including personalized tools, life stages guides, activity sheets, games, and more!

Exercise and Mindfulness

Exercises and mindfulness have a powerful impact on ones’ mental health. Exercise is proven to reduce depression, anxiety, ADHD symptoms and stress. It has also proven to increase memory, sleep and mood. It can be ½-1hour of exercise a few days a week or even just 10 minutes every day. It can be as little as taking a walk or sweating it out with a cycle class or run.

Mindfulness is bringing the mind into the present moment and releasing all judgment and expectations. Just 90 seconds of mindfulness will increase the neural pathways to the prefrontal cortex or what we call out “thinking brain”. Mindfulness will turn off our reactive brain to gain more control over our emotions. Therefore, mindfulness is proven to increase behavioral regulation, meta-cognition and executive functioning. Put exercise and mindfulness together for mindfulness movement and you can really improve your mental health! Some examples are taking a Mindfulness Walk, listening to a mindful meditation app, Yoga, and diaphragmatic breathing.

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Sleep

Sleep is one of our most important daily activities and is directly linked to health and wellness. Getting your child to fall asleep and remain asleep is a common challenge expressed by parents but can be improved by practicing sleep hygiene. This includes creating habits, routines, and environmental adaptations to promote sleep. Our actions during waking hours can impact sleep, especially considering the amount of physical activity your child receives. Exercise and daytime physical activity can positively promote relaxation, rest, and sleep during the evening. Some helpful evening tips to consider include:

  • Keep bedtime routine consistent with the same activities (ex. Bath, brush teeth, story, bed)

  • Consider the environment including lighting and amount of noise in the home

  • Use of a fan or sound machine

  • Limit/turn off screens 1-2 hours before bed

  • Encourage sleep in a consistent location each night

  • Relaxation strategies including yoga or listening to a meditation app before bed

  • Stick to a bedtime, even on the weekends!

Getting Additional Help

As occupational therapists, we use our knowledge combined with evidence-based tools, therapeutic use of self, and client-driven interventions to support wellness in our pediatric population. However, we truly thrive when we work together, with other professionals that are also integral in supporting a child's wellness and mental health.

 

Collaboration is key! Your pediatrician or OT may recommend that you seek additional support with one or a combination of providers listed below.:

  • Clinical social worker

  • Licensed professional counselor

  • Family therapist

  • Psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner

  • Psychiatrist

  • Nutritionist

  • School counselor

  • School psychologist

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