If you have a toddler at home, if your kid just joined school or if you are expecting a tiny little bundle of joy to arrive soon (congratulations!) Then this article might be for you as it will help you to know more about your child’s mental health.
It is common to think that children are simple beings and that understanding them is easy.
Some people might even choose to completely rely upon their instincts when it comes to caring for their child’s mental health, but sometimes that is just not enough.
For children, their growing years are of utmost importance. It is during these years that they acquire their true personalities.
But it is important to keep in mind that these years of childhood leave them vulnerable to several mental and behavioural disorders.
Children generally lack the ability to identify and express their issues, but these issues can have far-reaching effects, affecting their teenage, as well as, adult life.
Studies have shown that every 1 in 10 children suffers from mental health problems.
The list includes depression, anxiety, behavioural disorders and the like.
As a parent, it is your responsibility to care for your child’s mental health. If you think your child might be in need of help, or if you think being aware of such problems is important, this article is a must-read.
It comes with a list of the most common mental and behavioural problems in children, and also how to avoid them.
Things that you can do to improve your child’s mental health :
1. Identify the signs of sibling rivalry
If you notice signs of jealousy or feelings of hostility among siblings, it might be a sign for you to step in and stop such feelings from growing.
Sibling Rivalry or feelings of hostility between siblings usually occurs when one of the children begins to feel neglected.
Although rivalry among siblings is very common, if left unsolved, it can greatly affect a child’s mental health.
Often parents might end up giving more attention to the younger child, failing to notice the elder’s need for care.
In other cases, parents often compare their children with other kids on the basis of their talents and abilities.
This too leaves a deep mark on a child’s psyche.
What you can do:
Family members should not compare children to other kids on the basis of their abilities, rather encourage them to do better!
Make sure the elder child doesn’t feel neglected and try to make him/her a role model for his/her siblings to follow.
Be attentive to the needs of the young one too, and teach him the importance of sharing!
After all, a child’s sibling should be his strength and not weakness.
2. Check if loneliness is affecting your child’s mental health
Loneliness in children is one of the deadliest issues.
As a busy adult, it might not always be possible for you to stay by your child’s side.
If a child is away from his parents for a long time, it not only leaves scope for the development of mental health problems.
This also affects the parent-child relationship.
What you can do:
It might not always be possible for you to monitor your child. So, focus on quality over quantity.
Spending quality time with your kid, allows you to develop a strong bond.
Most importantly, you must never ignore what your child says. No matter what it is, listen to your child and let him feel included. We can guarantee that your extra attention will help him as an adult.
Listening to your kids and keeping a track of their behaviour will also allow you to spot any mental disorder before it’s too late.
3. Proper management of academic work and extracurricular activities
By striking a proper balance between schoolwork and play, you can ensure the complete utilisation of a child’s time.
Children may succumb to academic pressure or fall out of pace with their school if academics is neglected.
On the other hand they might miss learning opportunities if extracurricular activities are totally ignored.
What you can do.
Plan a daily routine for your child.
Make sure the routine is efficient, with enough time for both academics and extracurricular activities of the child’s choice.
Putting your child in a daily routine is going to help him develop regular habits as well. Having constructive regular habits can greatly help improve a child’s mental health.
4. Ensure proper adjustment to the school environment
Every child spends a considerable amount of time at school every day.
As such it is important to check if they are being able to adjust to their school environment properly.
If you notice behavioural and adjustment problems, then it is your job to look into the root of their problems.
What you can do:
Identify the child’s special educational needs if any.
Find out if your child has any learning disability and consult mental health professionals accordingly. Look out for signs of ADHD and other common mental disorders in children.
You might also want to check if the child falls anywhere in the autistic spectrum.
What is important is to remember is that just because the child is mentally disabled or suffers from a mental disorder does not mean he or she is less than the other kids in any way.
After all, we all remember how the young protagonist, Ishaan, of the Bollywood film Taare Zameen Par turned out to be a genius painter despite his learning disability.
You might be in a habit of rewarding your children with sweets when they do something good.
But you have to be careful or your children might get too obsessed with the incentives.
What you can do:
Teach children to acknowledge verbal appreciation.
Refrain from rewarding them with items that might be too expensive.
Sometimes, sticking to simple things helps in the longer run.
6. Family disputes
Disputes occur in every family, but openly engaging in arguments might not be good for your child’s mental health as this generates unnecessary agitation and anxiety in the child.
What you can do:
Solve disputes in a peaceful manner, preferably when your children aren’t around.
No matter how severe the disagreement maybe, talk to your partner or the other members of the family respectfully.
Children learn from the behaviour of their parents, so portray what you would want your children to learn.
7. Ensure the overall wellness of your child
Many people are of the opinion that the mind and body are somewhat connected.
That holds true for children too. Thus, it is important to look after the physical well-being of your child to ensure greater protection against any mental disorder.
However, maintenance of overall health becomes even more important if the child gets diagnosed with any mental disorder.
What you can do:
Ensure that your child has a properly balanced diet.
Make sure your child regularly goes out for physical activities.
Limit your child’s exposure to gadgets and make sure that he is getting enough sleep by fixing a bed-time.
Therefore, by choosing a more holistic approach you can ensure all-round protection and betterment of your child’s mental health.
Here are some common mental disorders and disabilities to look for in children:
Depression is a type of mood disorder which is characterised by prolonged depressive mood.
It is accompanied by a general lack of interest in day-to-day activities, severely impairing the daily life of the individual.
They are characterised by irrationally placed feelings of anxiousness.
Anxiety can manifest itself as generalised anxiety disorder or as particular phobic disorders.
On occasions of separating from the parent or having to adjust to a new school environment, children are often found to experience intense anxiety.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is common in many children who show signs of hyperactivity.
This disorder comes with the extreme inability to focus on the task at hand.
ADHD is a clinical disorder and if you think your child might be suffering from it, it is important to seek help from professionals.
Post-traumatic stress disorder manifests itself in children as an after-effect of physical or sexual abuse.
If the child has had to witness an extremely traumatising event, signs of PTSD may show up.
Severe bullying at school can also give rise to PTSD.
It is not preferable to treat this disorder by simply talking it through.
Consult a professional and opt for therapy if needed.
Disabilities like dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, auditory processing disorder, etc. are processing problems which have neurological linkage.
These can interfere with the learning of basic skills such as writing, reading, calculations or even attention and language processing.
Autistic spectrum disorder(ASD) is a neurobiological condition which renders communication and behavioural problems.
Having this disorder can make it hard for children to express themselves, either with words or through facial expressions or gestures.
Symptoms of autism can appear in children before they turn 3 years of age, or even earlier.
When signs of ASD are noticed, it is important to take the child for screening and consult clinical help so that proper adjustment of the child to his environment can be ensured.
With these tips at hand, you are well equipped to look after your child’s mental health. Remember, as a parent, your child’s mental health should be as important to you as his/her physical health. Therefore, remember to follow a holistic approach to ensure your children’s wellness. We guarantee that they are going to thank you for it later in life!