Psychologists reveal why sport is so important for your kid’s mental wellbeing.
Not too long ago, if someone said they needed to work on their mental health, they might receive a roll of the eyes or a dismissive ‘you’ll be right.’ But these days, interest in areas such as yoga and mindfulness are booming as people become more aware about their mental wellbeing.
Whether it’s a few deep breaths before your next meeting, a run on your lunch break or a quick 5-minute meditation before picking up the kids, we’re beginning to manage our stress and anxiety in new ways. But do you look out for signs of stress and anxiety in your kids too? Statistics show that 6.9% of Australian kids (aged 4–17) have suffered from an anxiety disorder in the past 12 months, and it’s on the rise.
Rebel Sport spoke with clinical psychologist Claire Hurwitz to uncover just how important sport is for the mental development of your kids. “The first 7 years of your life are the most fundamental in forming who you are,” Claire Hurwitz says. “By age 7 you have developed most of your beliefs.” Claire works with adolescents, young adults and adults that struggle with anxiety, mood disorders, relationship difficulties and low self-esteem. Since half of all mental conditions start by the age of 14, Claire believes that parents should take action to improve their kid’s mental wellbeing from a young age.
This is where the transformative power of sport can help give your kids a mental breath of fresh air and dramatically improve their mental wellbeing. A big concern these days is the effect of social media on your mental health.
“Social media comes with a lot of comparison with other peers, which inevitably and really significantly can increase stress and anxiety, and all other emotional difficulties,“ Claire explains. “Kids can also develop an avoidance coping mechanism, or unhealthy distraction with technology and a sedentary lifestyle that can stop them from engaging in the world.”
Before you lock away your kid’s mobile phone, it’s important to know that there are biological and environmental factors at play here too. Your brain produces chemicals called serotonin and dopamine, which influence how you feel and behave. “Generally, anxiety tends to run in families so if a child’s parents have anxiety, that child might be predisposed to some anxious tendencies. Their serotonin and dopamine levels might be lower than the average child,” Claire explains.
Additionally, stressful life events can also affect your kid’s mental health, such as the loss of a family member or moving schools. “12 to 13 is a significant age where you’re forming real connections with your peer groups,” Claire says. This means that a life change such as moving schools at this time can really affect your kid’s psychological development. If your kid is spending a lot of time on screens, rather than banning all devices, try limiting screen time to certain hours of the day and encouraging them to get outdoors in between.