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Published on December 16, 2020

How To Make Your Bored Kids’ Time More Meaningful At Home

How To Make Your Bored Kids’ Time More Meaningful At Home

While having children is a blessing, it does come with its own kind of struggles. We want the best for our kids and for them to spend their time in a meaningful way. However, there is currently a pandemic forcing children to stay at home all day. And even outside of this pandemic, it’s very often that kids feel bored around the house as well despite having homework or various toys to play with.

It can seem like a futile and frustrating endeavour to entertain a child through other methods, however, there is a simple solution around that. Through this guide, our goal is to provide you with possible solutions to having your kids have a more meaningful time while at home. This will also help alleviate the stress on you too.

Stay Entertained And Keep Learning With Amazon Kids

Back in September, Amazon announced a name change to two of their popular kids offerings as well as new experiences. These changes are geared towards older kids and introduced various features that are designed to help families stay on track for this school year.

They called it Amazon Kids while their premium was Amazon Kids+ and with it, came a series of features. These features being:

  • New Home Screen Experience: A new home screen theme within Amazon Kids that looks and feels more like a grown-up tablet. This is ideal for children aged 8 or more.
  • Announcements: If you have an Echo device in your home, bored kids will now be able to use their Fire tablet to broadcast a message in their voice to everyone in the home. This feature needs to be enabled and parental consent is required.
  • More Videos and Music: Now bored kids can enjoy hundreds of new video titles hand-selected for kids ages 6 to 12, including gaming playthrough videos and PG and live-action titles. Kids also now have easy access to music stations from iHeartRadio Family.

On top of that, families can use Amazon Devices and Alexa to stay organized further with features such as:

  • Coursework Updates Directly from School: Alexa Skills are now available to match the learning platform used by your school system, including Canvas, Infinite Campus, Coursera, ParentSquare and Kickboard. Parents and students 13+ can ask, “Alexa, do I have any homework?” to get all your upcoming due dates.
  • Personalized Schedules: With the Alexa Skill School Schedule Blueprint, just fill out an easy-to-use template from the Alexa app or online to build a personalized schedule that Alexa will read aloud each day, like reminders for class and school activities.
  • Worksheets On-Demand: With the new Jumpstart Alexa Skill, you can ask Alexa to print math, vocabulary, science and writing worksheets, coloring sheets, and more via your wireless printer for every supplemental at-home learning need.

Beneficial for Kids and Parents

With Amazon’s new platform for kids, these new features can provide a tonne of benefits.

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First of all, Amazon Kids is free with Amazon Kids+ being subscription based ($2.99 for Prime members and $4.99 for non-Prime members), making it affordable for parents to get this.

On top of providing educational and entertaining content, each new feature brings benefits to bored kids and parents alike.

Easy Navigation

The newer home screen makes for easier navigation for parents since the display is not that different from other streaming service menus. So if your child is looking for something in particular, it’ll be easier for you to navigate it.

For the child, it allows them to feel older and can bring a sense of maturity to them while they’re still developing. It can also make things easier for them to navigate since children 12 or older have likely surfed Netflix or other streaming platforms as well and this menu makes it easier for them to navigate through these too.

The new announcement feature can be used in all kinds of different ways. Provided that you have an Alexa Echo, you can use this feature as a way of calling your child and vice versa for anything at all.

An Expanded Library of Content

While the free version does have a good library of music and videos, having an expanded library of content can provide for more hours of entertainment and education.

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Beyond that, the music can be good for school work and focus.

Keep Your Child’s Learning on Track

The coursework updates are crucial for a child to ensure not only are they doing their homework in the first place, but also to ensure there aren’t any surprises for what’s due and what isn’t. With this feature, you can ensure that you are up to speed with what needs to be worked on so you can stay prepared.

The worksheets on-demand feature is fantastic as it allows the chance for children to have further study material in certain subjects that they’re struggling with. This allows children to reinforce what they learned in various areas and develop themselves further in that aspect.

Flexible Learning Schedule

Personalized schedules also remove a lot of stress as children are informed of what sort of events or activities are planned for the day. This makes preparation for the day easier for everyone.

How To Tackle the Potential Downsides

While these new features provide a tonne of benefits, there are naturally some downsides to these products you must keep in mind. Some of them being:

  • Screen time reduces the quality of family time spent together.
  • Prolonged exposure to television can cause overeating and weight gain.
  • The fact that television causes children to lead a more sedentary lifestyle overall.
  • Technology addiction leading to superficial friendships or children being less social.
  • Become addicted to dopamine (a feel good drug that can be induced from activities that one enjoys. Some are good but others are bad such as watching television) and thus reduce productivity.

However, as a parent, you can control these aspects and there are many different ways that you can go about this to mitigate the risks of too much television.

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1. See Television As A Band-Aid Fix

The first thing is that a television can never be a parent and shouldn’t be treated as such. Yes, there are great programs on television to teach children, but there are some things that tv shows can’t teach kids all that well. At the end of the day, the relationship that you share with your kid(s) is invaluable.

As such, see these features as an opportunity to keep children entertained for a few hours at a time. Spend time with them and guide them on how to be interacting with programs and devices while also doing other activities too.

2. Place Screen Time Limits To Curb Addiction

While technology is helpful, there are such things as too much of a good thing. As mentioned above, too much television – even if it’s educational – can lead to bad habits of watching too much TV.

One way that you can limit this is by placing hard limits on how much screen time is allowed for children. What this does is that it changes the children’s perception of technology and allows them to develop further.

The reason you want to do this is that as a child develops, the more screen time they have on something, the more they’ll use it as a replacement effect for something else. This is one of the reasons for why those used to being in front of a TV screen all the time associate more with the characters they see on the screen rather than those in their lives. Overall, TV addiction can lead to children being more introverted and struggle in social situations.

By placing hard limits, it prompts children to come up with other ways to entertain themselves and can lead to them having more meaningful times.

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3. Prioritize Your Relationship

The last thing that you can do is make an effort to be reaching out to your children. One of the beauties with these features is that you’re able to know what’s generally going on in your child’s life. Even though this pandemic has forced many people to stay indoors, this pandemic will be over soon enough and people will go back to a usual routine.

Use those features to your advantage as a means of encouraging your child to ask questions and to spark conversations. If you know a project is due soon, ask them about their progress and what they’re learning. Get them to explain concepts or things they’re learning. Beyond that, you’d also have access to their watch history for shows. You can easily ask them topics revolving around that too.

By showing interest in your child, they’re more likely to open up to you and make an effort to grow that relationship too.

Bottom Line

These new features change the playing field a lot. With a new look, it’s easier for kids and parents alike to navigate the menu. Beyond that, you can ensure your child stays on top of their school work and can give them more studying and learning material. Even the announcement features allow you or your child to call around the house if necessary.

There are a tons of benefits, however you want to make sure you’re using this program to the best of your ability. To do so, it’s a matter of mitigating how much time is spent using this program and putting effort into the bond that you have with your bored kids.

Featured photo credit: stem.T4L via unsplash.com

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Last Updated on January 12, 2021

Signs of Depression in Children (And How to Help Them to Overcome It)

Signs of Depression in Children (And How to Help Them to Overcome It)

Children, just like adults, can be depressed. Sometimes seemingly normal children with no major life issues can become depressed. It is the result of a chemical imbalance in the brain that causes clinical depression to occur. There are specific signs that you should recognize in your child if they are depressed. Getting them help and treatment is crucial to their mental wellness.

In this article, we will look into the signs of depression in children and how parents can help them to overcome it.

Signs of depression in children

The DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder) is the widely accepted instruction guide that professionals utilize for diagnosing mental disorders. The DSM characterizes a Major Depressive Episode as depressed behaviors that consistently last for two weeks or longer. Therefore, if your child has been “down in the dumps”, feeling hopeless or having sadness for more than two weeks, it should be cause for concern and investigated.

Below are signs of depression according to the DSM manual. The individual must have at least five of these behaviors present for a period of two weeks or longer to be officially diagnosed as having MDD (Major Depressive Disorder). Below is a summary/generalization from the DSM manual:

  • Feelings of deep sadness or depressed mood that last most of the day (for two weeks or more). For children they can present as irritable rather than sad.
  • Diminished interest in activities (again majority of the day or all the time).
  • Significant weight loss (not through dieting), or a decrease in appetite. In children, they fail to make expected weight gains while growing.
  • Difficulty sleeping (insomnia).
  • Either a slowing of psychomotor abilities/actions or an apparent agitation of these psychomotor abilities. This means that they either have moments that lack purpose and seem to be done because of agitation and tension or there is a significant slowness/retardation of their speech and physical actions.
  • Fatigue and loss of energy.
  • Feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt every day.
  • Difficulty thinking, making decisions, or concentrating every day. This may be reflected in their grades.
  • Preoccupation with death and dying or suicidal thoughts.

Please note that if your child is suffering from the loss of a loved one and is processing through the stages of grief, it is normal to have these signs of depression. If they seem to be stuck in the depression stage, then it is time to pursue grief counseling to help them along in the grieving process.

However, if they are not suffering from a bereavement or a medical condition that would cause the above symptoms, then they should be taken to a professional for possible diagnosis and treatment of MDD (Major Depressive Disorder).

How to help your child with depression

Depression is not to be taken lightly. Especially if suicidal thoughts are present. The child’s feelings and emotions are real and must be taken seriously. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), suicide is the number two cause of death for individuals between the ages of 10 and 34.[1]

Professional help is recommended if you believe your child fits the criterion for MDD (Major Depressive Disorder). You can take your child to their paediatrician for an evaluation and referral. Depending on the severity of the symptoms, they may benefit from medication such as anti-depressants.

Most professionals do not dispense medication as the first remedy for depression. Instead therapy is the first line of defense against depression, with medication being paired with therapy if the therapy is not enough or the symptoms are severe enough.

Testing

There are assessment tools that professionals can utilize to help in properly determining whether your child is depressed. The three tools used in assessing depression in children are:

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  • The Children’s Depression Rating Scale (CDRS)
  • Children’s Depression Inventory (CDI)
  • Clinical Global Impression (CGI)

Taking your child to a professional mental health counselor, psychologist or psychiatrist can help ensure proper testing and assessment occurs.

Therapy

There are many types of therapy available today. It is important to find a professional that specializes in childhood depression and the treatment of such.

Cognitive behavioral therapy is one of the leading therapy methods in treating childhood depression. For younger children, play therapy is useful in treating childhood depression as children are often able to better communicate through play than conversation alone.

What parents can do at home to help their depressed child

Besides seeking for professional help, there are a couple of things that parents can do at home to help their depressed child:

1. Talk with your child about their feelings in a compassionate and empathetic manner.

It can feel high pressure to sit face to face and ask your child about their feelings. However, going on a walk, playing a board game or playing alongside your child (chose whichever is age appropriate for your child) can allow them to relax and open up about their feelings.

Ask your child open ended questions that require more than a simple yes or no to engage in more meaningful conversations. Never judge while they are being open and honest with you because it will inevitably cause them to shut down and move away from being open with you.

It is okay to allow for periods of silence during the conversations because sometimes the child is processing their thoughts and emotions during your time together. You don’t have to fill the space and entire time with talking as silence at times is helpful.

2. Provide activities that help them relax and de-stress.

For smaller children, there are simple ways to help them relax.

Provide play opportunities that they find relaxing such as coloring, painting, working with Play-do or clay, or playing with sand and sand toys. Again, find activities that interest your child and are age appropriate are helpful in making them relaxed.

3. Limit screen time.

Technology is not helpful in making your child less depressed. It can often be an escape that keeps them from further opening up about their feelings and emotions.

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Limit time in front of the TV, laptop, smart phone, video games and tablets, etc. Any electronics that seem to prevent your child from face to face interactions should be limited. Ask Dr. Sears cites that researchers have found kids who have higher levels of screen time are at greater risk for anxiety and depression.[2]

Provide alternate activities to replace the screen time such as hiking, crafting, drawing, constructing, biking and playing outside, etc. Some children may be so dependent on their screen time as their source for entertainment that they may need you to participate in alternate activities alongside them in order to get engaged in the activities.

You can’t simply tell your child to go outside to play if they are suffering from depression, lack friends and are used to sitting down and playing video games each day after school. Go outside with your child and do a nature hike or take your child to a playground and have fun together to get them engaged in these alternate activities.

4. Promote outdoor time and physical activities.

Encourage your children to take part in activities that especially involve nature such as nature hikes. Do these activities with them to help them engage in the activities. Again this is an opportunity for open conversations to occur and quality time to take place.

5. Help your child when problems and difficult tasks arise.

Assist them by helping them break down the task into smaller and more manageable parts. Children with depression often have difficulty taking on large problems and tasks and find them overwhelming. Helping them by breaking down the task into smaller and more manageable tasks will assist in helping raise their confidence when the small tasks are mastered.

Small tasks mastered lead to bigger tasks being mastered over time. It is a process over time, patience and a willingness to work alongside your child. This does not mean doing the task or taking on the problem solely yourself. Many times all the child needs is for you to break down the larger task into smaller more manageable tasks and for you to patiently talk your child through the completion of these smaller tasks.

6. Help your child reduce life stress.

When children are depressed, they have greater difficulty handling life activities in general. Cut back on activities that cause stress to increase and look for ways to help reduce stress in your child’s life.

7. Foster a positive home atmosphere.

Reduce or eliminate negative attitudes, language and conversations. Also avoid raised voices, passive aggressive behaviors and any form of physical violence in the home.

Make your home a safe haven for your child instead of an atmosphere that is ever volatile (in words, emotions or physically). Make it a calm environment that makes your child feel safe and secure mentally, emotionally and physically.

8. Help your child see the positive in life situations.

Point out the positives in a situation rather than the negatives. Help them see the bright side of any situation.

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Be a model of seeing the positive in life by speaking words that are uplifting, encouraging and positive. Resist the temptation to voice negative thoughts that come to mind as your child can feed off your emotions and words.

9. Believe your child when they talk about how they are feeling.

Listen to them patiently and take their words seriously. Do not discount or minimize their feelings. Express empathy and compassion when they do open up about their feelings. Help them utilize “I feel” statements in expressing their emotions.

10. Keep watch for suicidal behaviors.

Such behaviors include your child/teen researching this topic online, them giving away their possessions and a preoccupation with death.

Seek professional help immediately with the presentation of suicidal behaviors or thoughts. Keep this number on hand and use it when in doubt: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Phone Number 1-800-273-8255.

11. Keep all prescriptions, alcohol, drugs and weapons locked and away from children and teens.

This is a given for all children, but even more imperative for children who are depressed as they have an increased likelihood to abuse drugs and alcohol. They also have an increased likelihood to attempt suicide. So keep weapons and tools such as ropes and knives that can used for suicide out of the child’s ability to use.

12. Spend quality one-on-one time with your child.

Make the time during your day, every day, to spend quality time with your child. You may have limited time and cannot provide an hour or more a day to dedicate to one-on-one time with your child, but you should provide a minimum of 20 minutes a day with your child spending quality one-on-one time together. Try the suggested activities listed in point #3.

13. Be an encouragement and supporter of your child.

Show love and not frustration or anger because of the situation and your child’s condition. Help keep your attitude positive so your child can also see the positive.

Provide daily words of affirmation that are not based on end results (such as a grade or a win) but instead praise the effort they put forth. If you praise the outcome, they will be disappointed when their efforts don’t pan out. If they are praised for their efforts regardless of the outcome, their confidence is built based upon something that they can control (the effort they put into things).

14. Help your child to live a healthy lifestyle.

Sleep is a very important factor in your child’s mood. Not getting enough sleep can cause an entire day to be upset. According to Sleep Aid Resource, children between the ages of 3 and 18 need between 8 and 12 hours of sleep each night:[3]

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    Ensure your child is eating a healthy and balanced diet, getting physical activity/exercise daily and plenty of sleep time.

    15. Help your child foster positive relationships and friendships with their peers.

    Set up play dates for your younger child and encourage older children to invite friends over to your home.

    16. Talk about bullying.

    It can be one of the causes of your child’s depression, so discuss their life outside of home and their interactions with their peers. Help them recognize bullying and discuss how to handle bullying properly.

    17. Help your child follow the treatment plan outlined by their doctor, counselor, psychologist or psychiatrist.

    Make sure you know the treatment plan that your child’s health care professional has outlined for child. This may include counseling session recommendations, medications and recommendations to follow through with in the home. Completing the plan will help provide optimal results for your child in the long run. A plan doesn’t work unless it is followed.

    18. Recognize that professional treatment takes time to show results.

    Don’t expect results for the first few weeks. It may take a month or longer, so be patient and understanding with your child.

    Depression in children is curable

    Depression in children can happen for a variety of reasons. It is quite treatable.

    Professional help is recommended if your child can possibly be diagnosed with a depressive episode. There are interventions that can be implemented in a professional setting, at home and at school. The key is having a plan of action to help your child.

    Ignoring the problem or hoping the depression will just go away is not a good plan. Treatment is imperative to curing depression in children.

    The first step is talking to your child’s paediatrician to get the ball rolling. He or she will refer you to specialists in your area that can help your child overcome and conquer their depression one day at a time. With you by their side, each step of the way you will get through it together and it is quite possible for your relationship with your child to be strengthened in the process as well. That can be your silver lining or positive outlook on the situation at hand.

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] National Institute of Mental Health: Suicide
    [2] Ask Dr. Sears: It’s a Virtual World: Setting Practical Screen Time Limits
    [3] Sleep Aid Resource: Sleep Chart

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