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U.S. Surgeon General Talks About Mental Wellness with Kids

By Bo Young Lee
Director of Noggin Content Marketing Strategy & Mom of 2

What’s on kids’ minds? During a talk last year with middle school students, Dr. Vivek Murthy explored how kids today are feeling. Plus, discover what you can do to help support your child’s mental wellness from an early age!

At Noggin, we believe that a healthy mind is as important as a healthy body. And so does Dr. Vivek Murthy, the Surgeon General for the United States!

Especially dealing with the aftermath of the COVID pandemic, our kids are facing new and continuing challenges every day. And as parents, we’re still discovering what ways our children have been affected by the pandemic and how we can help support them. Especially for our littlest ones, these years have been an especially long stretch in their short lives – as well as a critical stage for their social and emotional development.

Parents commonly ask: How can we help support our kids’ emotional health? And especially for Noggin parents, in what specific ways can we help the very youngest of children?

Mental wellness in kids has been on Dr. Murthy’s mind as well. Last year, Nick News presented a talk between Dr. Murthy and a group of middle school kids to express their feelings. He gave thoughtful advice on how to manage their mental wellness – and also asked their advice on how parents can help support their kids!

Here are some of the key points from Dr. Murthy’s talk, as well as additional tips on how his advice can be adapted to support even the youngest of our Noggin kids.

Express how you’re feeling.

This is great advice for both kids and grown-ups. “When we try to hide it and bury it inside, that’s when it will often do us more harm.” Dr. Murthy said. He also recognized that people feel comfortable sharing in different ways. “Sometimes, it’s hard to talk to someone you know and talking to someone who doesn’t know you as well may help. That could be a counselor.”

For our Noggin kids ages 2-7:

Even the littlest of kids still experience big feelings. They just might not be able to express them yet! That’s because an important developmental stage is learning first to identify their emotions. As parents, we can help them recognize and label basic emotions through characters in books, pictures, apps, or videos. Reading books about different feelings also helps them learn. Once they grasp this understanding, they can begin to express and manage how they feel. A good starting point is the Big Hearts learning section in the Noggin app.

What if you don’t feel comfortable talking to someone?

Dr. Murthy stressed that you can express yourself in other ways. “Writing, for example, can often be a powerful way to express how you feel.” Whether it’s in a personal journal or creative writing to share with other readers, having this creative channel can be a fun way to reduce stress and anxiety.

For our Noggin kids ages 2-7:

Drawing is a creative way for our little artists to express their feelings! This activity helps kids explore and understand how people physically express emotions (drawing a frown to show that someone is upset!) and also serves as an outlet to help kids express how they feel – or understand the feelings of those around them.

How can parents help support our kids?

During the talk with Dr. Murthy, 13-year-old student Chase said, “One thing that parents can do is just listen. You don’t know what it’s like to be a kid in this generation. Things have changed … Depression in kids is becoming more common now.” 13-year-old Katie agreed, adding, “Just listening to us, not necessarily trying to solve our problems … it makes us feel like there’s someone by our side who can help us when we need it.”

For our Noggin kids ages 2-7:

We all need support. Kids of all ages (as well as grown-ups!) need the assurance that they can always get help from their loved ones. When you spend quality time with your kids, you’re showing them that you are there for them. When they act out or are disruptive in new, challenging ways, try to understand it may be their way of expressing difficult emotions. You can support them by being patient and letting them express their feelings – while still setting boundaries, like preventing hitting or other harmful actions: “You are allowed to feel angry, but I can’t let you throw that cup. Let’s take a few deep breaths together.”

For more on feelings in Noggin, visit our Big Hearts section in the app!

You and your kids can discover loads of educational games, videos, and books. They’re fun ways to develop your little learner’s understanding of important social and emotional skills.

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About Ailey

Since its first historic performance in 1958, Ailey has been innovating and evolving the perception of American modern dance throughout the world. Noggin is honored to partner with them in helping kids all over get up moving, learning, and expressing their feelings through dance. Because movement has meaning when we dance how we’re feeling!