How to Improve a Child’s Mental Health
Today, around one in ten children suffer with some kind of mental health problem, including depression and anxiety. The root cause of these problems is generally found in what is happening in their day to-day lives.
Disturbingly, around 70% of these children and young people will not receive adequate levels of intervention and care when they are at a young age. Just as it is for adults, children’s mental health matters just as much as its physical counterpart.
Children with a good level of mental health wellness are more likely to develop the resilience and skills necessary to face the challenges of life and to grow into healthy adults. Surveys indicate that, although most children do not suffer from any mental health issues at all, the number of those who do suffer is greater than it was thirty years ago.
The same surveys indicate that this is most likely down to the way we live our lives today and how the process of growing up is affected as a result. Most events that occur during childhood will not bring about mental health problems on their own, but if the child is already in a vulnerable state, they can have negative consequences.
One of the biggest causes of mental health problems in children is change. For example, the mental health woes of the present author can trace their origins back to the transition from primary to secondary school. Changing schools is just one example.
For others, the birth of a new baby brother or sister and the necessary adjustments in family life may also prove difficult to cope with, as will moving house. Some children will view these changes as exciting or adventurous, whereas others will be more prone to anxiety. Teenagers are also not immune from these feelings.
As their bodies and voices mature into adulthood, some will find this process difficult and may resort to seeking comfort in cigarettes, drugs or alcohol, the consumption of which can lead to mental health problems. If you are a parent of a child who is exhibiting signs of mental distress, the most important thing you can do to begin with is to make sure you are always ready to listen to your child and to take their thoughts and feelings seriously. If your child has a good relationship with you, they will feel more comfortable in bringing their problems to you.
They may need your help with something or they may simply need a hug and to be told they’re loved. As a parent, the most important thing you can do is to make sure your own mental health is well looked-after. Children learn by example and if you show them positive ways to handle stress and solve problems, it is likely they will seek to imitate you. It is also important to make sure your child has good relationships with all his or relatives, not just you. A child who is healthy mentally usually maintains good relationships with extended family such as grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, not to mention their best friends.
Encourage your children to interact with those in their social bubble as much as possible. Stress is something everyone experiences and children are not immune. It is a good idea to help them learn to cope with it from an early age as their mental strength will be built up. The best way to achieve this is to work with your child on developing stress-relief activities that are suitable for them. For example, some children may relieve stress by writing their thoughts and feelings down.
Others may choose to call a friend for support. Work closely with your child to help them find what’s best for them. Additionally, you can also help your child to build their self-esteem from an early age. There are two ways you can do this; playing your own part in assisting your child and encouraging them to take steps to build self-esteem on their own.
For example, as a parent you could offer realistic praise in areas such as how much of an effort, they make without resorting to exaggerated and unrealistic compliments. You can also encourage your child to perform activities such as making breakfast on their own and enable them to show their competence. If your child’s distress persists for a long time or if their signs of distress are preventing them from living a full life, the next step is to seek medical assistance.
First, though, if the source of your child’s distress is at school, you should approach a teacher, counsellor or educational psychologist and report the problem to them. Perhaps the issue can be resolved there and then. If not, or if your child’s symptoms become progressively worse, the next port of call will be your GP or another health professional.
These will be able to refer your child for professional help. Treatments for children with mental health problems usually take the form of talking and working to understand the problem and where it has come from before working together to plot a solution. Usually, you and other members of the family will be involved in this process and the recommended actions will not be difficult or complex. Your child will usually be guided through the process of exploring their feelings and behaviour.
Examples of treatments like this are counselling, talking therapies and psychological therapy. It is customary for children and young people to undergo examination by a specialist before any medication can be prescribed and it is far more likely that your child’s treatment will revolve around therapy as opposed to any form of physical medicine, although it is not unheard of for medication to be prescribed to children.
Be practical when it comes to caring for your child’s mental wellbeing and do not be afraid to seek professional help if your child’s mental distress is too great for you to handle on your own.
This article is for educational and informational purposes only and must not be used or taken as a substitute in any form for any medical advice, medication you are currently taking or any alternative treatments without the prior advice, guidance and consent from your medical doctor. Please speak with your doctor first before making any changes to your diet or medicine as a result of reading any information laid out on this website or in this or any other articles.
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