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01 Mar, 2021
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mental health

Understanding Mental Health – H&S Education & Parenting

Understanding Mental Health In Children

mental health
Just as physical health plays a vital role in the overall well being of a child so does the mental health. Good mental health is needed for a child to thrive and survive as it allows children to cope with life and whatever life throws at them allowing them to develop into healthy beings. Did you know the mental health-related issues affect about 1 in every 10 children & young people? Depression, anxiety along other disorders are more a direct result of what goes on in the child’s life. When the pandemic hit, it didn’t only affect adults causing mental health issues among adults but also brought with is mental health-related issues in children as their lives were turned upside down with the many new restrictions that came into play.
It’s therefore important to understand how to help your child be mentally well and below are some tips:
1. Ensure your child has good physical health making sure he/she gets a well balanced nutritious diet along with regular exercise.
2. Make sure your child has the freedom & time to play. Remember the ongoing pandemic has been very hard and there’s no harm if you relax the rules once a while. Just ensure your child is safe at all times.
3. Try and keep the home environment happy and stressfree. Be a family that gets along well as often as possible.
4. Practice gratitude and positive affirmations with your family including your child. A positive mindset in a positive environment can make a huge difference.
5. If your child isn’t already going to a school that puts the child’s interests first and takes care of the child’s wellbeing then now is the time to start hunting for that school.
6. Let your child know they are loved, trusted, understood, valued and above all safe.
7. Allow your child to express his/her feelings. Don’t let the child bottle up feelings as this could lead to issues later on.
8. Always appreciate & praise your child when you get the chance to.
9. Be hopeful and optimistic at all times, even when you as a parent feel differently.
10. Encourage your child to do the things he/she likes, work on your child’s strengths rather than bringing out their weaknesses.
11. Let them know it’s okay when things don’t go the way as expected and you just have to push past it.

Due to the trying times, mental health issues have been more on the rise recently than they were in children, years ago & that’s a given considering the recent trying times with the changes in the way we live now as that plays a vital role and affects the whole experience of ‘growing up’.

So How Can We Deal With This Change:
It’s important to understand that it’s the traumatic events that can trigger problems for children especially those who are already vulnerable. Changes act as triggers this could be the change because of the pandemic, or from moving home or change of schools, the addition of a new family member etc. It’s usually the change in routine that can add stress and cause a child to be anxious. As a parent, you need to understand that the new norm we were all faced with was more difficult on children as they need to socialize and play with their friends and go to school for example. To avoid this from escalating into a mental health issue parents need to be more understanding and caring towards their child. For example during lockdown try not to focus too much on the pandemic instead dedicate time to your child you can do art projects with your child, facetime with your child’s friends etc. The whole point is to make this change not feel like a huge change. By shifting the child’s mind onto other things and happy thoughts, you are enabling your child to be mentally well.

What are some risk factors that make a child more prone to experience mental health issues than other children?

Some of the risk factors:

  1. Pre-existing health illness usually a long-term physical illness. For e.g. cancer, lupus etc
  2. Having a parent with mental health issues.
  3. Having a parent who abuses alcohol or drugs.
  4. Coming from a broken home i.e. having parents who are separated or divorced.
  5. If the child has been severely bullied, assaulted physically or sexually.
  6. Having lost a parent or a close person to death.
  7. If a child has experienced discrimination of any kind based on race, sexuality or religion.
  8. If a child is forced to take on adult responsibilities and as a consequence is forced to behave beyond his/her years.
  9. If a child has long-term educational difficulties.

What Are Common Mental Health Problems That Can Occur In Children?

  1. Depression- This is more common among teenage years than in young childhood years. But it’s important to note that depression affects more children now than it did in the last few years.
  2. GAD or Generalised Anxiety Disorder- This disorder causes young people to become very worried. In younger children, separation anxiety can occur when starting school or moving schools or if they are to leave their mother.
  3. PTSD or Post-traumatic Stress Disorder- this can occur post-physical or sexual abuse or if the child had to face an extremely frightening or traumatizing situation such as being severely bullied.
  4. Eating Disorders– Girls usually teenage girls are more prone to developing an eating disorder due to body shaming for example. Anorexia and bulimia can have a serious negative impact on the growth and development of these young girls.
  5. ADHD or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Deficit- this disorder is more common among young boys where the child behaves impulsively and has difficulty paying attention.

How Can You Help?

Parental help plays a vital role! Be warm, loving and understanding towards your child & build a trusting relationship so that your child is comfortable to tell you about everything. Be a good listener as this makes your child feel he/she can talk to you and share his/her feelings. As a parent, you will be able to pick up the red flags if you pay attention to your child. Mostly be present and easily approachable. Teach them young about good touch & bad touch, for example, to help them keep their distance from strangers. Help them become confident and comfortable in their own skin so they are able to take down bullies for instance.

Professional help may be needed if your child’s problems continue, be it at school or at home. A teacher, school nurse or counsellor or even a psychologist should then intervene if the need be. You as a parent can also consult your child’s physician as they will be able to help.

Sometimes this may need a multidisciplinary approach & whatever the case, it’s always good to talk it through with your child. Help them understand what the problem is in an age-appropriate manner which could be through play, for example, for younger children. Usually in children talking therapy does the job, but sometimes medication may also be needed.

 

 

Do you have any parental challenges? Let us know If you have any concerns or questions about parenting, leave your comments below & our expert will get back to you!

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