Dreaming Big: The Power of Quality Sleep in Teen Mental Health

In the whirlwind of teenage life, where academic pressures, social dynamics, and self-discovery take center stage, an unsung hero quietly holds the key to well-being — sleep. Join us on a journey guided by the wisdom of Dr. Funke Afolabi Brown as we unravel the profound connection between sleep and teen mental health, exploring the essential elements of quality, quantity, and timing.

Dr. Afolabi Brown illuminates the significance of sleep, likening it to the fundamental acts of eating and breathing. In dissecting the components of sleep — quality, quantity, and timing — we gain insight into how these factors influence the mental, physical, and emotional well-being of teenagers.

  • Quality: Internal and external factors dance together to shape the quality of our sleep. From medical disorders to lifestyle choices, habits, and even device usage, every decision echoes in the silent hours of the night.
  • Quantity: Teens, in the throes of rapid growth, require 8-10 hours of sleep, with adults ranging from 7-10. Recognizing the unique needs of each age group is pivotal in fostering a healthy sleep routine.
  • Timing: Circadian rhythms, the internal clocks that dictate when we sleep and wake, play a pivotal role. For teens, the misalignment between their natural rhythm and imposed bedtime can lead to a frustrating battle with insomnia.

Strategies for Healthy Sleep:
Navigating the intricate dance between sleep and teen mental health, Dr. Afolabi Brown shares practical strategies to foster healthy sleep habits, some including:

  • Engage in open conversations with teens about the benefits of sleep.
  • Establish consistent sleep and wake times to regulate circadian rhythms.
  • Implement calming routines, such as warm baths or reading, before bedtime.
  • And many more …

To delve into the full scope of our enlightening conversation, head over to my podcast and listen to our episode titled “Sleep and Teen Mental Health.” Let’s dream big and foster well-being together.

Managing your mental health in the middle years

Life begins at 40 !!….. Forty is the new 20!!…. Fabulous at 40!!…. Fit at 50 ….. are all common themes that are mentioned as we ease into the so-called middle years. It is often said that middle-aged women are in the anchor years. They are frequently caring for their growing children as well as their aging parents. They juggle careers with trying to maintain important relationships. These years can be challenging years and take their toll on emotional health. This is even more so if you are caring for a child with a chronic health condition.

I would like to share a few tips that would help along your way:

  1. Optimize your physical health: Prioritize sleep, a balanced diet, rest/relaxation and exercise. Schedule those health checks. (Check out my YouTube channel where my guests and I have discussed these). Monitor your screen time.
  2. Protect your emotional space: Examples of ways to do this include;
    a) avoiding “doom scrolling” or listening to news channels that update every few minutes and may not always be positive.
    b) Getting off the comparison wheel as you view those carefully curated online photographs of perfect figures, houses and relationships.
    c) Using the mute/block button for conversations/ groups that do not serve you.
  3. Identifying your support system and cultivating relationships in your community: Get to know your neighbours. Spend time with family, and make time to let your hair down with friends. Identify people you can confide in or who share similar interests/ experiences, kids in the same age group etc.

Which of these strategies have you used? Please share other strategies you have found useful.

Watch out for part 2 of this conversation.

Summer Mental Health Maintenance.

Hello there!!

I trust that you are enjoying your summer so far. It has been hot and we are getting a lot of opportunities to play outside, go on bike rides, swim, etc. Lots of outdoor events and barbecues happening too.

I am sure you are grateful for the downtime and opportunity to let your hair down. I hope you are enjoying some well-deserved rest as well as opportunities to spend time with your family.

As the summer months continue to roll by, you may be trying to push all thoughts of returning to school to the back of your mind but continue to have some niggling worries. I have been doing several short videos with tips to ensure that all the gains your child made in their mental health during the school year are not lost. We certainly do not want to be starting from scratch again in the fall.

Tips for all children

Whether a child has a specific mental health diagnosis or not, these tips would be useful:

  1. Ensuring adequate sleep, a healthy diet, and physical activity.

2. Providing opportunities for social interactions with peers and family members. Ensure they are not spending long periods isolating in their bedroom or your basement for example. Be intentional about the quality of time spent checking in and communicating with your child. Remember that being in the same house all day does not guarantee effective communication.

3. Developing new skills such as a new hobby or a life skill. This may be developed by assigning them age-appropriate chores and having them help out with meal preparation, gardening, etc depending on their interests.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder

   All the above plus some structure and consistency.  Take the opportunity to remind them of self-management/ organizational skills. This may include the use of visual schedules, lists, and reminders. Structured settings such as summer camps may help reinforce positive behaviors such as turn-taking.

Autism spectrum disorder.

 Children on the Autism spectrum may be rigid and intolerant of changes to their routine without advance notice. The summer months may be a time to introduce some mild changes to the routine to help your child learn to tolerate changes.  It is also important to continue to work on their social skills by providing opportunities for social interactions. A video on my Instagram page specifically addresses traveling with children on the Autism spectrum.

Depression

In addition to all the tips provided above encourage scheduled activity and social interactions, If they are receiving medication or psychotherapy, encourage compliance and full participation. Watch out for evidence of risk of harm to themselves. An indication that a child is engaging In self-harm may be a reluctance to wear clothing that would show their arms or legs despite warmer temperatures.

Anxiety

Anxiety thrives by avoiding what makes us anxious. A common one In school-aged children is Social anxiety. Your child must continue to be exposed to anxiety-provoking situations during the summer months so that returning to school in the fall does not become an uphill task. Examples of such anxiety-provoking situations may include attending a summer camp, paying for items in a store, placing an order over the phone, family gatherings, play dates, and hanging out with you and your friends who may children in the same age range.

Eating disorders

Eating meals together from time to time will help you to see what food choices your teen may be making. You can observe portion sizes and any attempts to cut out food groups. You can also choose to exercise together to ensure they are not exercising excessively. Their choice of clothing may also be an indication that they may be trying to conceal significant weight loss in baggy clothing for example.

Intentional preparation would ensure that the transition back to school is not too difficult. Consider reaching out to your Child’s school ahead. Certain schools have strategies in place to make returning to school less daunting. Your child may be able to visit their new classroom ahead of school resumption. Some allow a phased return to school so that a student does not become too overwhelmed. If your child is on a personalized learning plan, ensure the new teacher is aware of this and the recommended resources are in place.

Please follow me on Instagram and Youtube for regular youth mental health information. Consider signing your 9-12-year-old up for the Emotions Ambassador program to learn more about healthy emotions and so much more.

Enjoy the rest of your summer. 

Walking on eggshells?…… Parenting a teen who is depressed.

Walking on eggshells………How do I parent a child who is depressed?

One of the most frequent comments from the parents of teenagers who are experiencing depressing symptoms is that these parents are unsure whether their actions would be helpful or harmful and are usually walking on eggshells.

Individuals experiencing depression may feel sad a lot of the time, lose interest in activities they previously enjoyed, or withdraw from their friends and family. They may experience changes in sleep patterns, appetite, energy levels, and motivation/drive. They may also express a wish to be dead or to end their lives.

Possible challenges to parenting a child or adolescent experiencing these symptoms include figuring out how to tackle withdrawal from family activities, changes in sleep schedule, and a perceived reluctance to get school work done. As a parent are you unsure if you should insist on maintaining set boundaries/ rules or relax all rules so as not to upset your ward?

 Below are some reminders and tips you may find helpful:

Your child continues to require a parent.

No matter what mental health symptoms your children experience, they will still benefit from you continuing to fulfill your parental role of ensuring structure, routine and healthy boundaries. They are most likely experiencing a roller coaster of difficult emotions. The comfort of predictable family life would be a reassuring factor in what can be a tumultuous time.

Boundaries are healthy.

 A lot of parents have discussed their fear of having boundaries in place or disciplining challenging behavior in their adolescent who is experiencing depressive symptoms. It is important to realize that a teenager with depression is still a teenager who may make poor choices and it is important to ensure that you maintain boundaries and they continue to know the consequences to expect. This helps to keep your child safe and is important to maintain a healthy atmosphere at home. Remember that other children in your home are observing and you don’t want to give inconsistent messages.

Activity scheduling is a part of the journey to recovery.

Having a predictable schedule and encouraging scheduled activity is an important part of the treatment of depression so encouraging your child to get out of bed at a regular time every day is important. Other helpful routines that you can encourage include self-care, looking after their hygiene, regular meals, and bedtime. I encourage school attendance if it is safe to do so. This is not so much for academic rigor but the structured routine it provides as well as the opportunity for social interactions.

Good habits are always good.

Healthy nutrition is important to improving mood. Encouraging the whole family to have some meals together can help break the cycle of social withdrawal, improve family relationships, and helps to ensure they are adequately nourished. It would also be important to ensure that they get enough sleep. Depression can also mean that teenagers want to be in bed all the time. In such instances, encouraging them to get out of bed at a reasonable hour and to stay out of bed during the day may be the habit to promote.

The elephant in the room.

 Parents are frequently unsure how to approach talking about their Child’s mental health symptoms/ diagnosis at home. It is important to find a middle ground. It is important to let your child know you are a calm reassuring presence in their lives, you are open to hearing about their challenges and will not become upset at what they will discuss. There may be a need to balance this with letting them know that their space with their therapist or mental health professional is confidential and you do not need to know every single thing they choose to discuss in those settings. You can also let them know they can choose to wait to discuss some matters with their health care professional but agree on a safety plan to discuss risk issues with you in times of crisis instead of waiting for their next appointment. I always encourage teenagers to discuss suicidal thoughts or thoughts of self-harm with their parents so that parents know to get them help as soon as possible.

If you have any concerns that your child may be at risk of harm to themselves at any time, please contact your health care professional or proceed to the nearest Emergency Department.

Dr Tolulope Alugo

Saintjohncapp.

How to effectively parent youth with mental health diagnosis: Parenting a child with ADHD(Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder(ADHD).Part 1


This week we will discuss parenting a child who is hyperactive.
Children and teens with ADHD experience symptoms such as being very active, unable to sit still, talkative, and cutting into adult conversations. They may be reluctant to hold your hand when crossing a busy street and may even run across before you are ready to do so. They may have difficulty waiting their turn or get impatient as you wait in line at the grocery store. As they get older, they may no longer run around your home but may be constantly fidgeting, tapping, etc. You may find they are so forgetful it is unsafe to have them around appliances without supervision. Are they leaving the stove on, their hair straightener plugged in, or asking you to bring their homework folder to school? These are some of the symptoms you may already see in your child/ teen with ADHD.

Here are some tips to help you parent your child with ADHD:


Burn off energy. Encourage children to burn off excess energy through physical activity. Let your child run around outside, ride a bike or play pretend sporting competitions with siblings or neighbors. Indoor toys such as skipping rope and mini trampolines are other options. Enroll them in sporting activities in your community or encourage activities that the whole family can do together. Activities that involve constant motion may be better than those with lots of downtimes. These improve their attention and can strengthen your bond as a family.

Fidget tools
If it is challenging to get them to sit still long enough to do their homework, consider having your child sit on a fidget stool, an exercise ball, or having a fidget toy in hand.

Healthy sleep routine
Try to ensure regular bedtime hours and the opportunity to wind down before bed. A calming routine may include quieter activities such as coloring, a short bedtime story or a warm drink, and the opportunity to use the bathroom.

Keep them occupied.
Encourage your child to help out with tasks at home, helping with meal prep or short periods of playing board games with a sibling. Endeavor to limit screen time.

Caregiver self-care.
Be mindful of your mental health, pick your battles as you continue to parent through symptoms of hyperactivity, and avoid constantly expressing your dissatisfaction about your child’s behavior. Seek support and possibly ask others to care for your child so that you can get a break.

Download a free mental health tip sheet to help you and other caregivers understand your child’s mental health better. https://linktr.ee/saintjohncapp

How to effectively parent youth with mental health diagnoses.

A blog dedicated to supporting parenting youth with mental health difficulties. 

In my clinical practice, my role involves talking to parents and caregivers. When a youth is diagnosed with a mental health disorder, parents usually find themselves walking on eggshells. They may become nervous and unsure about their parenting strategies. Maintaining boundaries and structure may become a challenge.

This blog will provide evidence-based answers to questions commonly asked by parents of youth who experience mental health difficulties.

Bullying.

In Canada, 30 % of adolescents have experienced bullying. 50% of parents report that their child has experience bullying.

What is bullying?

A repetitive pattern of the use of force, coercion, hurtful teasing, intimidation etc. with hostile intent. It happens when someone is hurt or scared on purpose by another person. The bully usually appears to be in a more powerful position; socially or physically. There are different types of bullying:

  1. Verbal: name calling, spreading rumors, threats and negative comments about culture, race, religion or gender.
  2. Physical: Punching, shoving, pinching, destroying belongings.
  3. Social: excluding from a group, encouraging people to gang up on others, humiliating gestures.
  4. Cyber bullying: posts on the internet or text messages to intimidate, put down or make fun of others.

Bullying can lead to negative effects on a person’s mental health. People who are bullied can feel lonely, sad, worried and unsafe. It can also lead to low self-esteem.  It has been noted to increase the risk of developing anxiety or depression. Some people who have been bullied have had thoughts of death and considered ending their life. Getting away with bullying can lead to more serious antisocial behavior such as aggression towards peers, substance use and criminal behavior in later life.

Some warning signs that your child is being bullied include:

  • Unexplained physical injury such as bruises.
  • Withdrawal from friends and family life.
  • School avoidance.
  • Nightmares and other sleep difficulties.
  • Deterioration in school performance.

Signs your child may display bullying behavior

  • Easily frustrated.
  • Getting into trouble at school.
  • Overly focused on being popular and liked by peers.
  • Exposure to violence at home.
  • Friends that are aggressive or have other behavior difficulties.

Helpful tips for those experiencing bullying

  • Tell someone.
  • Walk away from confrontation.
  • Stay in groups.

Bystanders

People who witness or know about bullying behavior happening to someone else. They may also be affected by bullying as they may have a fear of it happening to them. Doing nothing about bullying allows it to continue.

Bystanders can get help for a bullying victim, tell a teacher or tell the bully to “stop”. They can become friends with the victim and support them.

We all have a role to play to put an end to bullying in our schools and communities. Every little bit counts. Together we can say “No” to bullying.

Dr Tolulope.

All things ADHD.

So far this month, we have learnt what ADHD is in this video. We talked about the 3 main areas in which it commonly presents. We have also discussed how genetic and environmental factors contribute to the symptoms we see. Dr Cara Ooi and I discussed Insomnia and ADHD in our recent IG live session.

There are few more things to look forward to over the next 2 weeks: a free masterclass, conversation with another expert and strategies to help at school.

Please subscribe to my newsletter and follow me on my social media pages to ensure you get all the up to date information.

Sincerely,

Dr Tolulope.