Holiday Tips for Parents with Children who have Mental Illness

This post was also published by Long Beach Post on Dec. 18, 2018.

The holidays can be a difficult time of year for those struggling with a mental illness. It is very likely that you may know someone who may be facing an emotional or behavioral health issue such as depression, anxiety or a trauma related disorder. They might want to avoid the upcoming family dinner or skip out on social engagements.

It’s important for you to remember that some mental illnesses can cause the individual to want to isolate themselves. There are many things happening around the holidays that can act as triggers, but you can be that safe place for them and help them enjoy the season.

If that person is your child, take this opportunity to begin new traditions with them! Here are some fun holiday activities that you can try to engage your child who is struggling with a mental illness.

Tip #1 – Holiday Light Magic

If transportation permits, getting out of the house is key. An activity that I love to do is going to see the gorgeous holiday light displays. My favorite neighborhoods to visit during this season are Candy Cane Lane in El Segundo, Sleepy Hollow is Torrance and Naples waterfront homes in Long Beach. The best part is that for all these locations you can either drive through the light-decorated neighborhoods or you can park your vehicle and walk through them.

Tip #2 – Movie Time

Movie nights at home are a great family bonding activity where you can have your child pick a holiday movie, or one of their year-round favorites, then everybody can put on their pajamas and watch the movie together. This helps reduce isolation during the holidays.

Tip #3 – Holiday Arts and Crafts

The 99 Cents or Dollar Stores have beautiful, very low cost arts and crafts supplies that you and your child can use to get creative together. They have everything you need to create ornaments to hang in the home, paint picture frames or simply paint a picture. The purpose here is to engage your child in the positive activity and to avoid your child in ruminating on negative thoughts that the holidays may trigger.

Tip #4 – Festive Slime

Slime is a big hit right now with our children. To add a little holiday twist, try using holiday colored food coloring, like red, gold, green, and make slime with your child. Slime can be a great relaxation activity for our children and can be utilized as a coping skill during the holidays. Click here for a few easy slime recipes.

Tip # 5 – Cookies and Quality Time

Baking cookies and decorating them is another great activity to have your child engage in with you. Try making this an activity for just you and your child solely to do together instead of including the whole family. This will help your relationship with your child, and they will value the quality time together. They might not be able to verbally express it, but you will be able to see it in their body language and facial expressions. Sometimes our children want that one-on-one attention, but they don’t know how to ask.

Tip # 6 – Game Play

Game night is also a great activity to get your child involved in during the holidays. From Jenga, to Lotería, Mancala, Monopoly and Battleship or even a simple card game, the purpose is to engage your child and help them reduce isolation. By engaging your child in the game activity, your child is now no longer by themselves playing on their phone and isolating themselves. Playing games together as a family will decrease isolation symptoms at home.

Remember that the holidays rarely turn out as planned. Focus on making them a special time for you and your child, no matter what the circumstances. Celebrate the season of hope and expectation.


Cynthia Sedillo-Artiaga, MFTI is a Clinical Therapist at The Guidance Center’s Compton Clinic, where she helps guide children and families struggling with mental health conditions or abuse toward positive and productive futures. She is especially passionate about bringing mental health awareness to the undeserved communities. Before joining The Guidance Center team, Sedillo-Artiaga worked at Aids Project Los Angeles. Sedillo-Artiaga earned a Masters of Arts Degree in Counseling Psychology/ Marriage & Family Therapy at Argosy University.

 

 

Summer Self-Care

Summer self-care - feature image

The days are getting longer, the weather is warming up, and the school year is coming to an end. Summer is almost here! As a parent or caregiver, you’ve worked hard all year long to support your children in and outside of school. The end of the school year and change in season is a great time to reset, refocus, and take time for self-care.

Self-care (noun) refers to activities and practices that we can engage in on a regular basis to reduce stress and maintain and enhance our short- and long-term health and well-being.

The idea of summer may feel overwhelming, but the great thing about self-care is that it can be simple and inexpensive (or even free!). I always encourage my families to start by getting outside. There are so many great activities happening in our communities that the whole family can enjoy. Here’s a list of my favorite summer self-care activities:

  • Take a walk

    It may sound simple, but even if it’s just around the neighborhood or to the store, walking de-stresses the whole family.

  • Pack a Picnic

    You don’t have to spend money when you go out. Getting out of the house and eating a picnic at the park or beach with food items you packed from home can make lunch more enjoyable!

  • Visit a free museum

    I love taking my families to the California Science Center. Admission is free, and there are so many fascinating activities for every age. Free museums are a great way to have fun without stressing about the cost. You can even pack a picnic to make it even more affordable!

  • Enroll in a class or recreation activities

    Find out what classes or sports activities are offered at your nearby park and sign your kids up for something that interests them. While your kids play, walk around the park to enjoy the fresh air. You may even find that there is a class you can take simultaneously (dance class for kids, yoga or Zumba for you).

  • Experience nature

    Take a trip to the beach. Explore the Nature Walk at El Dorado Park in Long Beach. Being out in nature is proven to benefit your mental health and overall well-being.

  • Connect with your support system

    Has it been awhile since you called your best friend or cousin? Talking with other adults helps to de-stress and is a simple way to practice self-care.

  • Jump in the water

    Spending time in water, whether that’s a pool or the ocean, is incredibly relaxing. Visit the beach. Take a run through the water play pads at the park. Or, get relief from the heat by signing the family up for swim classes at a local pool – depending on your income they can be free or lower cost.

Whatever you do, make sure to take some time for self-care this summer.


 

Cynthia Headshot (1)Cynthia Sedillo-Artiaga, MFTI is a Clinical Therapist at The Guidance Center’s Compton Clinic, where she helps guide children and families struggling with mental health conditions or abuse toward positive and productive futures. She is especially passionate about bringing mental health awareness to the undeserved communities. Before joining The Guidance Center team, Sedillo-Artiaga worked at Aids Project Los Angeles. Sedillo-Artiaga earned a Masters of Arts Degree in Counseling Psychology/ Marriage & Family Therapy at Argosy University.