Your Child’s Mental Health
Take Time To Care
It is important for children to learn about mental health early on so they understand why their thoughts and feelings affect them and others around them. Early education can help prevent the development of serious mental illnesses like depression or anxiety later in life. In today’s society, with so many pressures placed on children, whether they’re at school, in sports, at home, or some combination of these, it’s important for them to be able to handle stress and deal with difficult emotions. By teaching children now about mental wellness, we’re helping to reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness later on, which makes it more likely for people to seek out counseling services when they need help.
Support your child’s own mental health
Just like adults, children can suffer from mental health conditions. Depression, anxiety, OCD, ADHD, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, eating disorders, substance abuse, and other conditions are all treatable if caught early enough. It’s never too late to get help. Your child needs you to be the parent and advocate who will encourage him/her to talk about the problems and seek treatment. Don’t let your child feel ashamed. Children often struggle with understanding what is happening to them emotionally, but they do know that something isn’t right. They may not know how to express this feeling, but they’ll tell you if they think there’s a problem. If you don’t know what to say or how to react, ask a trusted adult for advice.
Engage your child in conversation
If you have concerns about your child’s mental health, there are ways to support them while you assess whether they need professional help. Here are some tips on how to engage your child:
- Ask questions. Ask your child open-ended questions such as “What makes you happy?” and “How do you feel about school?” These questions give your child the opportunity to share his feelings without judgment.
- Listen carefully. Listen to your child’s answers without interrupting. Let him/her finish speaking before responding.
- Encourage your child to talk more openly about his/her emotions. Be patient and avoid trying to solve the problem yourself.
- Offer encouragement. Tell your child that you’re proud of him/her for being honest. Remind your child that he/she has nothing to fear from telling you about his/her feelings.
- Be supportive. Show your child that you understand his/her situation by offering unconditional love and acceptance.
- Don’t try to change your child. Instead, focus on helping your child cope with his/her feelings. For example, if your child feels sad, offer comfort rather than advice.
- Be aware of warning signs. Asking questions and listening can go a long way toward supporting your child. However, sometimes your child may not tell you what s/he really wants to say. If this happens, pay attention to warning signs. Some examples include:
- Changes in eating habits
- Increased anger or irritability
- Loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed
- Decreased concentration
- Feeling hopeless
- Talking about death or dying
- Avoidance of friends or family members
- Withdrawal from social activities
- Changes in sleeping patterns
- Sudden changes
Again, it’s worth repeating, if you think your child might be suffering from mental illness, don’t hesitate to get help. There are many resources available to assist you in making an informed decision.
Actively be involved
The best way to help your children develop healthy habits for life is to get involved in their daily activities. Being there for kids when they need you most – whether by spending time with them, being physically present, talking to them or playing with them, or just listening to them – helps children develop positive self-esteem and learn to cope with life’s challenges.
There are also a lot of books and websites available that offer tips on how to cope with different types of mental health conditions. For example, if your child is dealing with anxiety, you can read books about overcoming fears or watch videos about how to relax. Some of these resources can actually be used to teach your kids about mental wellness. Remember as parents, you are your child’s biggest advocate for learning about mental health issues.
Activities that can foster mental health and improve/teach coping skills
- Participate in team sports to build confidence.
- Craft projects to learn how to cope with stress.
- Learn to play instruments to express themselves.
- Participate in community service events to gain perspective.
- Plug into volunteer work to meet new people.
- Find creative outlets through dance, theater, and other performing arts classes.
- Take walks in nature to explore and connect with the world around them.
- Play games that encourage problem-solving and decision-making skills
- Play board games like chess, checkers, and Monopoly to practice logic and reasoning skills.
- The list can go on, on, and on.
Don’t be that parent
Most parents don’t want to see their children suffer from mental health illnesses just like they don’t with their child’s physical health. But the stigma surrounding mental illness is so strong that many parents are reluctant to seek help for their children, even when it could save them from suicide or other serious consequences. In a shocking new study published in the journal Pediatrics, researchers found that nearly half of all parents surveyed said they would not take their child to a doctor if he or she had suicidal thoughts. How is it okay to seek help for your kid’s physical health but not for his/her mental health needs?
The study was conducted by Dr. Michael Thase and colleagues at Columbia University Medical Center. They interviewed 1,200 parents about how they deal with their kids’ mental health issues. The results were surprising:
- Nearly one-third (31 percent) of parents reported having refused medical care for their child because of concerns about confidentiality;
- More than half (54 percent) of parents indicated that they would refuse treatment for their child who had suicidal ideation;
- Almost three-quarters (73 percent) of parents indicated they would refuse treatment for a child with anorexia nervosa;
- And almost two-thirds (63 percent) of parents indicated refusal of treatment for a child with obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Seek support from a mental health professional
If you have any reason to believe your child may be struggling with mental health problems, make sure you discuss it with him/her. Don’t let embarrassment keep you from getting help. If you do decide to seek help, find a therapist who will work with both you and your child. This way, you’ll know that your child is receiving the best possible treatment. Don’t wait until your child becomes seriously ill.
Mental Health Services Offered At New Heights Counseling
The staff at New Heights Counseling provides counseling for a wide variety of mental health concerns and works with children, teens, and adults. Mental health concerns include anxiety, depression, stress, grief, loss, addiction, abuse, trauma, PTSD, self-esteem, confidence, body image, eating disorders, and others. We address issues such as family problems, parenting skills, anger management, separation, and divorce. Our goal is to help you find the best solution for your situation and we will work together to achieve that goal. We are here to listen and understand what you and your child need so we can give you the tools to make positive changes in your lives.
We offer in-person sessions at our Fort Walton Beach, FL location and online therapy for the state of Florida. We are located on the 2nd floor of WorkSpace Suites at 1992 Lewis Turner Blvd, Suite 1057, Fort Walton Beach, FL 32547. Get directions here on Google Maps or visit our office location page. Our office hours are Monday through Friday, 8 AM to 4 PM. Evenings/Weekends by appointments. Call (850)757-1552.
About the Author:
Colleen Wenner is the founder and clinical director of New Heights Counseling Center, where she and her team of therapists provide counseling services for both children and adults alike who struggle with mental health issues. She is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Master Certified Addiction Professional. Colleen is a certified supervisor in Florida as well as an EMDR trauma-certified practitioner and consultant in training. She is also licensed by the state of Virginia to provide professional counseling. Colleen is committed to providing excellent mental health care to her clients and services the Fort Walton Beach, Crestview, Niceville, Destin, and surrounding communities.
Colleen has always advocated for mental health wellness and she has dedicated her entire life to promoting awareness among the public. She has been featured on a variety of podcasts such as Practice of the Practice (The #1 Podcast for counselors in private practice), Shrink Think Podcast, and The Salty Christan Podcast to name a few. Colleen uses compassionate and authentic communication to help clients understand themselves better and feel more confident about their ability to improve their lives.