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Reflecting on Children’s Mental Health and How to Support It

Cardinal Innovations Healthcare — May 7, 2020 — 4 min read
National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day was established more than a decade ago to shine a light on the importance of caring for every child’s mental health. On May 7, we join forces to create awareness about the needs of children with serious mental illness (SMI) and severe emotional disturbance (SED) and their families. This is an opportunity to work on prevention and offer resources to help the kids and their families improve their quality of life.

Mental Health in Children: Prevention and Early Diagnosis

According to the CDC, mentally healthy children have a positive quality of life and can function well at home, in school, and in their communities. Good mental health in childhood involves:
  • Reaching developmental and emotional milestones
  • Learning healthy social skills
  • Learning how to cope when there are problems
Mental health disorders among children are serious changes in the way they typically learn, behave, or handle their emotions, which cause distress and challenges in getting through the day. It’s normal for children to occasionally have problems like fears and worries, or disruptive behaviors. However, if symptoms are severe and persistent, and interfere with school, home, or play activities, the child may be diagnosed with a mental health disorder.

Some of the more common mental health disorders that can be diagnosed in childhood are attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, and behavior disorders. Other childhood disorders and concerns can include learning and developmental disabilities, autism, and risk factors like substance use and self-harm.

There’s Help and Hope for Children

Childhood mental health disorders can be treated and managed. There are many treatment options based on the best and most current medical evidence. Parents and doctors should work closely with everyone involved in the child’s treatment — teachers, coaches, therapists and other family members.

Early diagnosis and appropriate services for children and their families can make a difference in the lives of children with mental health disorders. Find more tools and trusted sources of information from the CDC

How Can You Support Children’s Mental Health?

The following tips can help you guide the children in your life to cultivate better mental health. These recommendations by different authors are always helpful, but they can be especially relevant now that we’re going through the new coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis. Children can feel the uncertainty around them, so now more than ever, adults need to step up and help kids process the situation in a healthy way. 

1. Build coping skills. Kids and teens need to learn that all emotions are okay. There is no right or wrong way to feel about this pandemic. Experts recommend that parents develop the habit of checking in with each child privately throughout the day to give them an opportunity to verbalize feelings and talk about triggers. Find more tips on how to develop coping skills for kids in this article.

2. Learn how to manage anger. Now is the time to find new ways to decrease negativity in the home. Parents have a lot on their plates. It’s hard to juggle work, parenting, educational and emotional responsibilities. Find healthy ways to manage your own stress, such as:
  • Thinking before you speak
  • Getting some exercise
  • Taking a time out
  • Using humor to release tension
3. Adjust expectations. There’s a lot of pressure on parents and kids coming from different fronts. Social media bombards us by telling us everyone should be enjoying every moment and learning new things as a family. But this idealistic view of the quarantine might not be true for many families facing different challenges. Just step back for a minute and come to terms with the fact that nobody can do it all at the same time. It’s okay to feel stressed and overwhelmed. Breathe and take one step at a time. Give yourself some grace. Remember, we’re all together in this!
 
4. Practice empathic communication. There’s a lot we don’t have control over right now, and that can trigger negative emotions. But we can control how we respond to and communicate with others. Take a pause and listen to your kids, show them you care, and try to put yourself in their shoes. Here’s an article to learn how to practice empathy with your kids at home.

5. Use technology and stay connected. There are positives and negatives to technology, and now is the time to take advantage of the positives. It’s still important to keep a balance and make sure that kids and teens are getting exercise and engaging in activities that don’t involve screens. But there’s no doubt that technology can be a source of support, connection and education too, especially while social distancing during coronavirus.

Let’s remember that positive mental health is essential to a child’s overall healthy development. Together, we can take #Steps4MentalHealth to protect our youth’s well-being.
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