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Five top tips to keep your children mentally healthy in isolation

Looking after our children and young people's mental health can be difficult even in normal circumstances. There's a lot on their plate with schoolwork, friendships and answering some of life's big questions. It's no doubt made infinitely harder by being at home during isolation, away from their friends and school. So, how do we help keep our kids mentally healthy at this tough time? 

Deputy editor, Jess Lester, spoke to Joel Harris, who heads up youth and social media at mental health charity Kintsugi Hope, about his top five tips to protect your children and young people's emotional wellbeing. 

1. Routine

The first top tip - and what I myself have made sure I've been following - is routine. In our normal life, routine is really helpful. For me, it keeps a normality that I wouldn't have otherwise.

It's really easy for us, now that school has stopped, to ditch our routine. Our sleeping schedules can also go out of the window. We're all just doing what we want, when we want. That sounds really fun, it sounds ideal, and it is for the first few days but then you get into this rut because you're not doing much. That can really affect your mental health because you have no motivation to do anything and you're just stuck in your bed all day. 

Our new routine doesn't have to mean that at a certain point in the day you have to do a certain activity, but it's good to have an idea of what you have to do during the day, and you have an alarm that you wake up to. 

2. Exercise

I think going out and doing some exercise in this time is really helpful. We're allowed it once a day so really use that time and try and get outside when you do. Going outside helps clear your mind and put perspective on the things going on inside. 

3. Open your windows

Personally, opening my windows and my curtains is so helpful. If you're sitting and working somewhere, make sure you have windows open. It allows fresh air and natural sunlight in, which is positive for your mental health and has worked really well for me. 

4. Be kind

There's a lot of pressure with school and education. A lot of teenagers were due to take exams this year, which is no longer happening, and they may be stressed about their grades. They've also been given loads of work to do by their teachers. That can feel so overwhelming. So I think these young people need to know to be kind to themselves. 

Allow yourself to enjoy things. Allow yourself to not just be caught up in your education. Education is amazing and let's try our best to get incredible grades, but let's watch our mental health in that. Give yourself breaks and allow yourself time off. 

5. Try and learn a new skill

Take up a new hobby, but allow yourself to fail at it and let it just be fun. When this started I said I would learn a new language and skill and come out with three business ideas. Suddenly, that can feel like a lot, because actually my days have become busier than before. I think for a lot of people, they also feel like they should be doing all these things and learning so much, but actually we just need to focus on surviving the day! 

It's important to allow yourself to learn new stuff, but don't put pressure on it. We don't have to achieve what we were achieving in normal life in isolation, because this is a different lifestyle. For some people just getting out of bed and opening the curtains is an achievement - as they are dealing with that anxiety of what is going on. Understand your limit.

To hear more from Joel Harris, keep your eyes on the YCW Podcast

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