One of the largest issues plaguing today’s society is mental health, and it seems to be affecting the younger generations more and more. Emotional wellbeing is just as important as physical wellbeing, however it can easily be overlooked because it's something that can’t be seen. Studies suggest that children and young people are struggling with mental health today more than they were 30 years ago. 😳
As a parent, knowing your child’s mental health is suffering can be overwhelming — you want to protect your children from all harm. It’s important to understand that you are not responsible for curing or fixing them (however hard that may be), but you are responsible for getting them the help they need. It’s important to learn the symptoms and realise that they are likely not trying to personally hurt you.
Common mental health issues among children include:
- self harm
- eating disorders
- generalised anxiety disorder
- ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)
- PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder)
One of the best things any parent or guardian can do is actually take the time to listen to what their children are saying and to not mock their feelings. Even if you don’t understand them, it’s important that you embrace them with empathy and validation. Sometimes, they’ll want physical comfort 🤗, sometimes they’ll ask for advice, but often, they just want a way to vent out their frustrations.
Give them a safe space to express their feelings, but don’t be offended if they don’t. Children are very resilient, and often go through phases of negativity — don’t rush to put a label on their feelings. You can try and start a conversation with your child using leading questions:
- Can you tell me more about what’s going on? How are you feeling?
- I know you may not want to share what’s happening, but I’m here to listen. How can I help you feel better?
- I’m worried about your safety. Are you having thoughts about harming yourself or others?
Having a mental health conversation with your child is never easy, but you should try to communicate in a straightforward and age-appropriate manner. A teenager will require a more in depth conversation than one just starting school. Keep an eye on their reactions during your conversation to see if they are confused or upset about something in particular.
However, if you have noticed a fairly stark change in your children’s behaviour, you may want to take action. If things feel out of control, and you’re at a loss of what to do, seek professional help. This is exactly what they’re trained for.
Signs to look for
- feeling uncharacteristically sad or withdrawn for more than 2 weeks
- trying to do serious harm to themselves
- loss of interest in their favourite foods, activities or friends
- experiencing sudden, yet overwhelming fear for no reason
- getting in fights with others or trying to harm other children
- not eating, weight loss, dissatisfaction with the their body
- showing drastic changes in their behaviour or personality
Things that can trigger a change in behaviour
- death of a loved one
- divorce or separation of their parents
- difficulties with school and/or classmates
- teasing or bullying
- major life changes including a new sibling, new home, different school, etc.
- traumatic life experiences
Who to talk to
You need to practice what you preach when it comes to helping your child. If you’re telling them that they need to voice their feelings and opinions, you should also do the same. 🥰 Try a therapist or family counselor yourself - it’s never a bad idea to talk about your feelings. Express your concerns to your child’s doctor or another healthcare professional — they may be able to recommend a specialist that’s experienced in treating the problems you’re observing.
Your child is not alone in this, and neither are you. 💯
Other mental health resources
ChildLine — free and confidential service where children can speak to trained counsellors over web chat or phone YoungMinds — support for young people with mental health struggles as well as for adults to support the young ones in their lives. CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) — offers a free, confidential helpline and web chat to those who feel down or need support.
Did you know that at Bequest, after your loved ones have received your life insurance payout, we provide support through our partners at GriefChat. We don’t leave them once they’ve been paid, we care that your loved ones get the help and support they need. 💛