As a teenage girl, I have seen many of my peers struggling with mental health.
A recently released CDC report shows how youth suicide has skyrocketed in the past decade. The Monitoring the Future Project by the University of Michigan outlines how teenage girls are less likely to pursue physical interactions in the world, given ease of access to smartphones.
“I usually recommend to patients who feel isolated, especially teens, to pick an activity they can do with a family member as an ongoing ritual,” says Neha Chaudhary, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School. “It could be eating together, something artsy, something involving moving your body, or something as simple as reading together,” Chaudhary says. “Whatever it is, it should be a shared experience, and something done as regularly as possible.”
Below, meet five mother-daughter pairs across the country who say spending time together has helped their mental health. Each pair has a unique way to relax.
Meagan Warren, 16, and her mother, Shannon Warren (Bexley, Ohio)
For Shannon and Meagan, singing together has a calming effect. Not only do they almost always sing in the car, but also whenever they are worried or stressed.
“Whenever I am busy studying, music is our go-to way to relax and take a little break.” says Meagan.
“It is nice to sit together, listen to calming music, and just reflect on the day,” says Shannon. The pair uses the website calm.com to listen to meditative melodies.
The two especially look forward to singing “Sweet Caroline” at football and hockey games. “We don’t know the song particularly well, but we do have fun with it,” Shannon says.
Santoshni Birlangi, 18, and her mother, Uma Tamminayana (Houston)
In Houston you can almost always hear the pan sizzling and a delicious aroma in the home of Santoshni Birlangi and Uma Tamminayana.
Both mother and daughter use cooking as a creative outlet.
“I never follow a set recipe. I improvise a lot as I have been cooking for many years” says Tamminayana.
“I get really excited when we try out a new recipe. Once we find a recipe that we really like, we improvise it to cater to our personal tastes,” adds Birlangi.
The two often host dinner parties with family and friends and serve home-cooked food.
Ryan Pascal, 17, and her mother, Jacques Williams Pascal (Los Angeles)
Ryan and her mother, Jacques, love expressing their artistic side together to create new jewelry and decor. In the digital age, this activity brings them together and away from their phones. “[It] allows me to connect and engage with my mom. This is one of the few moments in my hectic life that I can focus on one thing without any distractions or worries about school and activism,” says Ryan.
Jacques appreciates how jewelry-making with her daughter sparks long conversations. “We speak about various influences that inspires her creativity which again is a gateway to ideas that may not otherwise be expressed,” she says.
Emily Weinberg, 18, and her mom, Victoria Fraser (Boston)
For years, writing has been an integral part of this pair’s self-care routine. It is thrilling for both of them to write stories together, expressing their most vulnerable feelings and emotions.
“I do my best to write out when I am feeling upset. Writing it down in a journal helps me keep track of what I feel to have discussions with my mom later,” says Weinberg.
“When we are together, our home is usually bubbling with ongoing conversations about movies, books or original story ideas,” says Fraser.
Hannah Wiser, 18, and her mom, Corin Wiser (West Palm Beach, Fla.)
A few miles across West Palm Beach, you can find this mother and daughter pair walking together in the late afternoons. Not only is it a fun way to exercise, but also a provision of many therapeutic benefits. According to Hannah, “The beach has such a calming and nourishing quality and we always leave feeling better than when we got there.”
Taking long walks on the beach help Hannah and her mom feel disconnected from the world. It evokes a feeling of relaxation and self-care which they both enjoy together. “It’s the place I feel most connected to myself,” Corin says.