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Children’s Mental Health

by Natalie Wong

Topics

  • Childhood bullying
  • How would children express their emotional states
  • Warning signs of mental illnesses in children
  • Parents impact on the growth of children
  • How to help your children overcome their mental illnesses – the importance of a support system
  • Services to help children and parents with children for mental health

Childhood bullying

Children who are bullied are more likely to experience depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem. They are also more likely to feel isolated from their peers and tend to feel a sense of shame and worthlessness. Children who bully others are more likely to engage in antisocial behaviors; including having problems at school, substance abuse, and aggressive behavior. Bystanders are also more likely to experience anxiety, depression, and stress-related fears of being targeted for reaching out or not knowing what to do if their friends are bullied. Addressing bullying and mental health issues associated with bullying, at an early stage, is essential to moving forward and stopping children from harming themselves. Schools and educators should work towards putting bullying prevention strategies and interventions in place to prevent future cases of bullying.

Sources

Board, By: StopBullying.gov Ed. “Effects of Bullying on Mental Health.” StopBullying.gov, 25 Nov. 2019, www.stopbullying.gov/blog/2019/10/25/effects-bullying-mental-health

How would children express their emotional states

Throughout childhood, there are numerous chances for children to have their mental state triggered. Knowing how to prevent breakdowns and helping your children get through difficult times is essential. Children differ from adults when it comes to expressing their emotions as often, young children are developing their language and communicative skills that we as adults too often overlook. Kids express their emotions through facial expressions, body language, and behavior during playtime. Being a parent or guardian means taking on the responsibility of providing a nurturing and supportive environment for your child(ren) and making sure they have the resources they need to know how to manage their emotions positively. 

Ways to help your child(ren) express their emotions in a positive manner:

1. Tune into cues.

Be attentive to your child(ren)’s needs and make sure you spend an adequate amount of time with them to be aware of their struggles and challenges. 

2. Behind every behavior is a feeling.

Try your best to understand why your child(ren) may be feeling this way and discuss it with them. Once you understand and are aware of the roots of the problem, you can motivate and inspire them.

3. Name the feeling.

Naming feelings can help your children learn to identify them. It also allows children to develop an emotional vocabulary. 

4. Identify feelings in others.

Give your child(ren) lots of opportunities to be able to identify the feelings of their peers and family members. 

5. Be a role model.

Kids learn how to express their feelings by watching how others express their feelings. Be sure to behave in a positive manner even if you are frustrated or mad, as your child(ren) will learn from those actions.

6. Encourage with praise.

When your child(ren) acts positively, be sure to recognize them and tell them what they did correctly. When they know that you are proud of them, they will more likely continue behaving in a positive way.

7. Listen to your child’s feelings.

Encourage your child(ren) to identify and express their feelings so their voices will be heard during adulthood. They will be more likely to stand up for what they know is right and not be a bystander.

Sources

“Helping Kids Identify and Express Feelings.” Kids Helpline, 25 Mar. 2019, kidshelpline.com.au/parents/issues/helping-kids-identify-and-express-feelings

Warning signs of mental illnesses in children

Mental health issues in children are seen when their developmental milestones are delayed; including their thinking and social skills. There are barriers when it comes to identifying children’s mental health including the stigma associated with mental health. To target stigma, be sure to address the issues your children face in a direct manner and always speak up when others are misjudging your child. By educating yourself and others, you are becoming a part of helping your child(ren) grow to become independent and strong adults. 

There are warning signs that your child(ren) may portray that can help you identify whether or not their mental health needs to be addressed:

  • Persistent sadness
  • Hurting oneself intentionally
  • Talking about concepts aligning with death or suicide
  • Out-of-control behavior
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Changes in academic performances

Of course, do not self-diagnose and always seek a mental health professional if you are unsure of their symptoms. These symptoms do not necessarily mean your child is struggling and is just a general framework for all children. Each individual is unique and will show various forms of warning signs that may not be highlighted here. Overall, make sure you are communicating with your child and ensuring they take mental health breaks, including working on their passions, spending time with (good) friends , watching a movie, or going on nature walks. 

Common treatment methods to help children with their mental health are:

  • Psychotherapy (talk therapy)
  • Talking with a psychologist/therapist and addressing their mental health by conversations and using coping skills. With young children, psychologists would play games with them and engage their mental health by playing games.
  • Medication

Sometimes, mental illness is best treated through medication, there is nothing wrong with having to take medication for your mental health. Your decision should actually be something to celebrate and be proud of, as you are actively helping your mind and yourself to target these essential issues. 

Sources

“Worried about Your Child’s Mental Health?” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 26 Feb. 2020, www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/childrens-health/in-depth/mental-illness-in-children/art-20046577.

Parents impact on the growth of children

If you or your partner suffers from mental illnesses, this can stress your child(ren) and affect their development. This by no means is trying to shame, make yourself feel worthless, or not enough for your child as you most definitely are worthy from your children’s lens. This is just to inform you of what you may need to be aware and cautious of when it comes to your child’s mental health as well.

  • Is your child taking on inappropriate levels of responsibility for their age to care for themselves?
  • Does your child blame themselves for your difficulties and struggles? Do they experience anger, anxiety, or guilt?
  • Do they feel embarrassed or ashamed of your mental health? Do they isolate themselves from their peers?
  • Are they at higher risk from their peers for concerns including struggling at school, drug use, and poor social relationships?

If you or your partner are experiencing symptoms of having a mental illness or are diagnosed with a mental illness, please ensure you are taking the right steps to manage your mental illness. This may be by seeing a psychologist, taking medications, or by spending more time with yourself. If you are ever finding yourself having suicidal thoughts please seek a mental health professional or reach out to a mental health hotline. You may also remain anonymous by talking to one of the amazing mental health volunteers at the chat sections of a mental health organization. There are a few services you can reach out to down below if you are in need of this.

Source

Writer, HealthyPlace.com Staff. “Impact of a Parent’s Mental Illness on Children.” HealthyPlace, www.healthyplace.com/parenting/parents-with-mental-illness/impact-of-parents-mental-illness-on-children.

How to help your children overcome their mental illnesses – the importance of a support system

When talking about mental health problems with your child, you should:

  • Communicate in a straightforward manner
  • Speak at a level which is appropriate to your child’s age and development level (be concise, specific, and do not use too much technical language)
  • Discuss the topic when your child feels safe and comfortable (do not rush to speak about their mental health as this may trigger your child)
  • Watch for reactions during the discussion. Slow the discussion if your child becomes confused or upset.
  • Be attentive to your child, support them despite their circumstances or situation, do not judge them and be able to talk about your feelings as well

Source

“For Parents and Caregivers.” For Parents and Caregivers | MentalHealth.gov, www.mentalhealth.gov/talk/parents-caregivers

Importance of a support system

Having a support system is knowing there are always people who will back you up and support you for your ups and downs of life. As a parent, it is essential you are the backbone of this support system as they look up to you and want you to be there for them when they are going through tough times. As a young child, your support is even more essential as they are still developing a social circle outside of their family. Reaching out to their peers is not likely a worthwhile decision as their peers have just the same knowledge as your child. 

The benefits of your child having a support system (including you!) are:

  • Higher levels of well-being (they won’t feel the need to hide their struggles internally and speaking out is a well way to sorting out feelings and having someone listen to you makes you worth the fight)
  • Reduced depression + anxiety
  • Decreased stress
  • Opportunity to be around people who are experiencing the same struggles as you or have been in a similar situation

Support groups are also found in community centres, led by professionals, or websites. Having a support system is a form of creating a community and having a community you can depend on is much easier than fighting alone. Please reach out if you need any form of assistance as I am certain a lot of people will want to be there for you! You are never alone, please remember you are always worth it!

There will always be a rainbow after the storm, please keep looking for it, do not give up!

Sources

“The Importance of Developing a Support System.” BJC Employee Assistance Program, www.bjceap.com/Blog/ArtMID/448/ArticleID/139/The-Importance-of-Developing-a-Support-System

Services to help children and parents with children for mental health

Kids Helpline – Canada’s only 24/7 support service. They offer professional counselling, information and referrals for youth and teens. English/French.

Website: https://kidshelpphone.ca/

Phone #: +1 800 668 6868

Text Service: Text 686868

Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) Ontario – Non-profit organization, committed to making mental health possible for all

Website: https://ontario.cmha.ca/

Phone #: +1 800 875 6213

Email: info@ontario.cmha.ca

Good2Talk Ontario – confidential support services for post-secondary students

Phone #: +1 866 925 5454

Text Service: Text GOOD2TALKON to 686868

*Also available to residents of Nova Scotia

Parentline – national, confidential helpline offering parents support, information and guidance on all aspects of being a parent and any parenting issues

Phone #: +1 890 927 2777 (open Monday – Thursday from 10:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. + Friday at 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.)

National Suicide Prevention Line

Phone #: +1 800 273 8255

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