Ways for UAE kids to keep mentally healthy at home

Expert advice to help teens

Ways for UAE kids to keep mentally healthy at home

With distance learning now set to continue for the remainder of the academic year, we speak to Ema Gregory, who is the school counselor at Jumeirah College, on how parents UAE teens can keep mentally healthy at home.

Teenagers are social creatures, they thrive on human interaction, but now, with schools closed and large gatherings limited, many students are going to suddenly find themselves isolated and cut-off from their usual social stimulus

"This will be a difficult time for all, but for some it will be a little more challenging," says Gregory.

"It is understandable to be concerned with the current situation in the world, and for some it can exaggerate existing mental health issues," she says.

Gregory explains that while social media is an excellent source of keeping the world in contact it can also lead to a lot of false information circulating, and stresses that for those with anxiety, it can have a concerning consequence.

"As expats we rely on social media more than many to keep in contact with our family and friends back in our home countries. However, the feeling of being powerless to control what is happening around us, and ‘waiting for disaster’ will trigger panic and fear," Gregory adds.

WHO guidelines recommend that we limit our time on social media, and only listen to reputable sources, something which Gregory advocates.

"While that Facebook ‘share’ or Twitter thread, may sound convincing, ask yourself, where did this originate? Take a deep breath and reassess. Maybe this is a good time to create a new habit and set yourself a daily check-in time on social media,"Gregory says.

With schools implementing distance learning and the temporary closures of social areas, it is becoming increasingly more difficult to physically connect with others.

So Gregory emphasises how important it is to check-in with those that are vulnerable to periods of low mood.

"For some, school serves as a welcome distraction from being alone with their own thoughts," she says.

"It is more important than ever now that people talk. Talk through stress. Talk through worries. Talk through anything…. Just talk! There is power in words and choosing to keep a positive attitude will radiate in powerful waves with those around you."

Gregory also admits that it would be foolish to think that procrastination will not be an issue for many so points out that it's important to try to stay motivated.

"Distance learning may take a little time to adjust to, but think of it a normal school day. Set yourself up a working space with all your equipment around you. Keep to your timetable and take the recommended breaks," she advises.

"The more that you do, the more that you will feel motivated to do. Turn off your Snapchat. You aren’t allowed to send random selfies from lessons, so don’t do it from your ‘home office’. In time you will create yourself a nice routine and when you sign off at the end of your school day, reward yourself with something that you enjoy doing to relax."

There are loads of changes happening now and over the next few weeks, but here are a few things to remember:

- Remember you were a teenager once and how important your friends were in your life.
- Don’t take anything personally.
- You are not the enemy you are probably just not the people that your teenager would choose to be hanging out with right now.

- Be kind to your parents. This is all new to them too, and no one has the answers just yet, not even the professionals! We’re all just taking this one day at a time.
- The world is going to slow down for a bit, but it is not going to stop.
- Be empathetic to others.
- Use this time to reconnect with people.
- Make time to laugh, joke and have quality time with those close to you.
- Wash your hands, eat a balanced diet and be sensible with what you choose to read.
- Above all breathe.

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