Mental health plays an important role in a child’s development. It supports learning, communication, behavior, social skills, emotional well-being, and more. When there are problems with mental health, it can affect the child at home, in school, and in the community. It may interfere with how they relate to others, how they think about themselves, their actions and behavior, and their ability to learn.
While genetics play a role in mental health, environment does as well. Home life, school life, recreational activities, and friendships can all influence a child’s mental health in positive and negative ways depending on the situation. Parents can be proactive in supporting mental health and recognizing signs that may indicate mental illness. Early detection and treatment can support children in managing or overcoming the challenges they face. October 5-8 is Mental Illness Awareness Week, and October 10 is World Mental Health Day, so now is a great time for parents to brush up on the basics and how to better support their children.
Recognizing Signs of Mental Health Problems
As a parent, you know your child better than anyone. Paying attention to your instincts and intuition can be beneficial. If you feel that something just isn’t right, speak up. PediaPlex offers a wide range of evaluations and diagnostic testing that can identify certain mental health problems. While not every bad day, poor test score, argument with friends, or bout of nervousness means they have a mental health problem, recurring or consistent issues can raise a red flag.
Here are some common mental health disorders in children and signs or symptoms to be alert for:
- Persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or worthlessness
- Losing interest in previously enjoyable activities
- Changes in sleeping or eating habits
- Constantly worrying about things that may happen
- Fear about being alone or being around a lot of people
- Fear of specific situations or objects (ex: small spaces or dogs)
- Panic attacks
Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
- Trouble sustaining attention or makes careless mistakes
- Seems to daydream a lot or not pay attention
- Disorganized and gets easily sidetracked or distracted
- Difficulty sitting still and always moving or fidgeting
Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)
- Intentionally bothers others
- Argues with adults and refuses to follow directions
- Becomes easily angered or upset
- Blames others for own mistakes
These are just a few of the mental health disorders that may affect children. Knowing what to look for can help you to get your child the help they need to deal with the issues. According to the data from the National Research Council and Institute of Medicine report, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that “13-20 percent of children living in the United States (up to 1 out of every 5 children) experience a mental disorder in a given year.”
Creating a Healthier Environment and Promoting Good Mental Health
There are many ways that you can support your child throughout their development to promote positive mental health. Staying actively involved in their life and creating open lines of communication is important. Make sure your child knows that they can talk to you about anything – even things they know you may not approve of. Building trust and honesty are essential. Praise them for making good decisions, and talk through choices that aren’t so great. Let them know what the expectations are and why you have these expectations. You’re not just putting rules in place to be mean, but rather to keep them safe.
Pay attention to your own actions, words, and behaviors as well. Your children are constantly watching and learning from what you do, even if you don’t realize it. Model healthy ways of coping with stress, talking through disagreements, making friends, and overcoming challenges. This can help your child develop better coping skills themselves from the positive example you have set.
Create environments where your child feels like they belong. At home, keep them actively involved in helping out with things around the house, making decisions, and doing things together as a family. Let them build their independence and realize that they can do things on their own. Encourage them to get involved with a hobby, club, or sport. Here they can make friends with similar interests and work toward goals doing something they really enjoy. Group activities can cultivate many beneficial skills to promote better mental health.
Seeking Support for Mental Health
If you’re concerned about your child’s well-being and have noticed signs of mental health problems, talk to your family doctor. You may also want to talk to close friends, teachers, coaches, or other significant figures in your child’s life to see if they have noticed any changes that may indicate a problem. This can help you to better understand when these signs occur and their impact on your child’s life.
You may also want to get your child into counseling. PediaPlex offers counseling services to support children in working through mental health issues and other challenges they face. Whether they are struggling with depression, anxiety, ADHD, learning difficulties, anger management, or a variety of other problems, PediaPlex can evaluate their needs and create a tailored treatment plan. Strategies such as psychotherapy, play therapy, behavior therapy, or social skills training can all play an integral role in your child’s well-being.
Mental health disorders are not something to ignore. Without proper treatment, they can have a profound impact on your child’s life. Recognizing warning signs, having your child evaluated, and getting them the treatment and support they need can have a positive impact on many aspects of their life. PediaPlex offers a wide range of diagnostic and therapeutic services to support your child’s well-being and help them to be as successful as possible in all that they do. Make your child’s mental health a top priority and be proactive in supporting their development – and if you need assistance, turn to PediaPlex.
Get your child the help they need today with evaluations and counseling at PediaPlex.