We try our best to ensure our children eat properly, drink enough water, and exercise an adequate amount. We run to comfort them when they scrape their knee or hit their head. We do these things because we want to keep our children healthy and safe – and we are doing so, physically.
But what about their mental health?
Do we nurture our children’s mental health as frivolously as we do their physical health? Do we give them our undivided attention when they come to us with concerns about their thoughts or emotions? Do we provide them with the help or coping mechanisms they need to heal when they are struggling?
Most often the answers to these questions are no.
This isn’t because we don’t care, or because we are bad parents – it’s usually because we don’t recognize the problem or don’t know how to approach it.
Managing children’s mental health is not easy, but it’s something we, as parents, need to put more effort and time into – our children’s mental health is equally as important as their physical health and we need to treat it as such.
How Serious of A Problem Is It?
To help you understand how big of a problem children’s mental health issues are, let’s take a look at some (rather alarming) statistics:
10% of children aged 5-16 years have a clinically diagnosable mental health problem
70% of these children, however, will not receive appropriate intervention at an early enough age
3 in 4 mental illness cases begin during childhood
Self harm is the third leading cause of death for adolescents
How We Can Help
There are a number of ways that we, as parents, can help promote positive mental health in our children through our words and actions. A few ways we can do this are:
Help them build meaningful relationships by spending quality time with them.
Help develop their self-esteem by giving them support, showing them love and affection, helping them set realistic goals, and recognizing their efforts when they work towards these goals.
Actively and attentively listen to their feelings, encourage them to speak about their feelings openly, and validate their feelings when they do.
If your child still seems to be struggling, or you are beginning to notice changes in their behaviour, thinking, or even physical health, don’t be afraid to speak with your doctor.
They Need Us
Living with mental illness can be especially challenging for youth. It can make them feel isolated and different from their peers and family members and may even make them targets of bullying.
It’s important for us, as parents, to be present and supportive, and to use the tools and resources necessary to ensure our children are comfortable, confident, and happy.
Spend quality time with your children, listen to them, validate them, and don’t hesitate to seek out professional help, such as exploring therapy options for your child, if you feel things are out of your control.