Covid hasn’t been kind to the young, although fewer than older adults have contracted the virus. Socializing centers have been closed, and more than a third (37%) of respondents said they had poor mental health during the pandemic. According to one study, a stunning 44% reported feeling constantly sad or hopeless, and 20% reported contemplating suicide. CDC survey.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has created traumatic stressors that have the potential to further erode students’ mental health,” CDC administrator Debra Houry said in March 2022. newsletter. “Our research shows that with appropriate support from surrounding youth, these trends can be reversed.” What could and should this support look like from a wellness design perspective?
Special Needs Planning Topics
Karen Aronian He is an educational designer who creates learning spaces for youth and children in the northern New York metro area. He says those with special needs and learning differences have been challenged even more by the pandemic. To support young people with mental health problems, he recommends that parents make space design decisions with them gradually and approach the project with a priority framework. This may include where the teen’s workspace and restorative points should be located, and may be based on observation and experience, not just parental preferences. “Beyond that, there are many aspects to consider: light, sound, air quality, furnishings, therapeutics, and a list of support services and learning resources to refer to.” He suggests the simple design is ideal because areas of overstimulation can create problems.
Home Environment Matters
Board certified pediatrician Hansa Bhargava, MD, Chief Medical Officer at Medscape Education and its author Creating Happier Childrenknows that the home environment is a very important factor for the well-being of young people. “It is very important for young people to have a quiet and ‘safe place’ at home.” This quiet spot is often the teen’s bedroom. Bhargava recommends that parents involve their children in choosing the decor for their room, including posters and other personalized inspirational objects, while “Colors that evoke emotions are scientifically supported. I think a cooler (green/blue) color scheme in reset places (like the living room area or bedroom) is a good idea.”
Newton, Massachusetts-based interior designer Sarah Cole accepts. “The colors and materials of a room have a huge impact on how a person feels. To reduce anxiety, balance strong colors with calming neutrals and layer textures rather than too much color.”
She also sees the value of personalized decor during this critical period of self-discovery in young lives. “It is important that they feel supported and proud. Showcasing art and objects that are important to young people or that they create themselves sends a clear message of validation,” says the designer.
Houston-based interior designer Mary Patton he takes the same approach in his youth projects and includes the young client as much as possible in the discussion, he says. “I want their parents to be as involved in the design process as they feel comfortable with.”
The pediatrician speaks of the value of the Bhargava biophile: “The effects of nature are multifaceted: Studies have found that exposure to nature can not only reduce stress but also help with sleep and positive emotions. Combining nature landscapes and plants is a great idea in any space!” This can come from houseplants or even artworks depicting natural environments.
Cole states that natural light is also extremely beneficial. “Using blackout curtains in the bedroom at night and opening them to fill the room with natural light during the day helps teens maintain good circadian rhythms. Keep televisions out of the bedroom and skip the bedside phone charging station.” (Easier said than done for most teens – but manageable with current technologies.)
Patton agrees: “I’m not a mental health professional,” says the designer. We live in a printing world, and unfortunately this technology is not going away anytime soon.”
In some ways, technology can help. human-centered lightingAlso called circadian lighting, it’s a growing trend in smart home technology. HCL mimics the natural path of the sun, from bright and cold in the morning to soft and warm in the evening. This LED-based technology can be beneficial for young people who may spend most of their time indoors. lighting manufacturer Lumilum President Michael Meisner explains: “During the day, blue light can make you feel more alert and improve focus, reaction time, and productivity. It also suppresses melatonin production, making you less sleepy; this can be negative if you don’t limit your exposure to blue light before bed in the evening. Using lights with an orange color temperature will help you relax and sleep better as it stimulates melatonin production.” All of this is programmable for your teen (and yourself).
“Did your parents monitor your internet use when you were my age?” My then-teen stepdaughter once asked when her father and I created Myspace rules decades ago. “We didn’t have internet when I was your age,” I said amused. Boomer and Gen X teen bedroom tech often included a radio, stereo, or TV. Some younger generation Xs may have a personal computer later on. Typical teenagers shared their families’ landlines. This is certainly not the case today.
“Many of the teen bedrooms we’ve worked on focus heavily on the flow feature,” she says. Joe Acree, a smart home technology integrator in Kansas City. His firm builds systems that allow teens to access their home network from any room or device. “All this technology may seem like an overkill to some, but it has helped when education has been online for more than a year,” says Acree. As home spaces shift from classrooms to study and social spaces, this flexibility is still welcome. It also helps that they can easily return to their learning center when needed.
Acree notes that smart home technology can control other areas of a teen’s home environment, including climate and lighting. This can be especially helpful on school mornings. “We have programmed automations that will gradually start to illuminate the lights, open the curtains, and continuously increase the volume of music that kids will enjoy waking up to. It’s a very different experience for them than having a sudden knock on the door or shouting up the stairs to start getting ready.”
One of the biggest tech trends that Acree’s adult customers are demanding is parental control. And their teens are getting more and more sophisticated at ditching them, she thinks. “Parents are looking for ways to manage when their children access the Internet and control what they watch.” Working with a company that understands housing networks helps, she says. “With a full home automation system, it’s much harder for kids to work.”
Setting up these systems involves creating user profiles for each family member with different levels of control, timing, and access. How much time a teenager can spend surfing or playing games is predetermined and automated by parents. Acree says they don’t have to actively think about it. “Another piece of parental controls is the ability to monitor cyberbullying,” the integrator adds. “Parents are alerted when there are issues with text, social media, and more,” she explains. It sees a strong parental trend using technology to protect against teens spending excessive time on their devices while also guarding against less-desirable internet interactions. Their aim is to encourage them to spend time outside and with their families.
Technology for Special Needs
“Designing spaces for teens and children with special needs is very close to home for me,” Acree says. “My 15-year-old son has autism and I’m constantly thinking about how technology can make it easier for him to communicate, walk through the house, and stay safe. One of the biggest game-changing factors in all of our projects for anyone with special needs, whether it’s an intercom, camera and speaker system, is everywhere in the house. It is to enable two-way communication on site.” This facilitates dialogue between household members and access to the home for helpers and visitors.An easy-to-use interface with the home technology system can facilitate this, he notes.
“We just finished a project for a family with a daughter. [who] He cannot speak and communicates primarily through sign language. Bringing two-way communication into their homes has given these parents a great deal of peace of mind,” she shares. “They can bring their home camera on any TV or mobile device to control it and communicate with it.”
Security systems with app-based notifications, lighting and shading controls are also popular features. The integrator says these can be particularly useful for customers who are not standing or have other special needs for seeing who is at the door, getting them in, opening and closing the window coverings, and operating the TV or thermostat.
“The goal is to create feel-good spaces that inspire joy, attention, and productivity,” says learning designer Aronian. “Nothing is static; We yawn constantly as teenagers grow and change. Home environments affect the health of your teens and make a significant difference to their health and future success,” he concludes.