How to Parent a Child with Good Mental Health
Raising children is actually very challenging for a family. Because not only should parents focus on a child’s physical health, but also pay more attention to their mental health. However, there are still some people who do not realize that mental health is important in kids. Sometimes, they can easily identify their child’s physical needs, such as delicious food, warm clothes, adequate sleep time, etc. But they always ignore a child’s mental and emotional needs which are not obvious.
What is Children’s Mental Health?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “Mental health is a state of well-being in which an individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community”. But the organization also stresses that mental health is more than the absence of mental disorders.
Similarly, children’s mental health is all about how a child thinks, feels, and behaves. It refers to children’s cognitive, behavioral, and emotional well-being. It is an essential component of children's overall health. Therefore, it is the key to early childhood developmental milestones.
Why is Children's Mental Health important?
Mental health is important at every stage of our life, especially in childhood. Childhood is a critical stage for mental health. Children’s Mental Health Network stated that 80 percent of mental health disorders begin in childhood, only 50 percent begin before the age of 14, and 75 percent before the age of 24.
Because it is a time when rapid growth and development take place in the brain. At this time, children can acquire cognitive and social-emotional skills such as how to handle stress, communicate with others and make choices. This critical period will shape their future mental health and help them to assume mature adult roles in society. Related research findings support the conclusion that children’s success in school, at work, in society, and ultimately in life is greatly associated with their mental health. Now, let’s see the characteristics of children with good mental health:
- feel happy and positive about themselves and the future most of the time
- not despair facing failures or never giving up during tough times
- enjoy life
- focus on learning and can learn well
- good communication with family, friends, and other people
- can manage emotions such as sad, worrying, or angry feelings
- be brave to face challenges or new things
Facts about Children’s Mental Disorders in the World
Today, most children are physically growing at a rapid pace, but we should notice that more children have problems with their mental health than ever before. Mental health issues have become a burden of disease for children globally. According to the data of Children’s Mental Health Network, about 20 percent of children suffer from a mental health or learning disorder. And nearly two-thirds of children that have a diagnosable mental health problem receive little to no help.
An analysis of the 2016 National Survey of Children's Health data indicated that one in six U.S. children between the ages of 6 and 17 has a treatable mental health disorder. In 2019, nearly one in seven adolescents experienced mental health conditions. This amounts to an estimated 175 million adolescent boys and girls globally, an increase of about 4 million since 2000. Until 2020, the coronavirus pandemic has taken a heavy toll on children’s mental health. A new issue brief shows that children are facing worsening mental health today.
What mental health problems commonly occur in children?
Children always face various mental health problems, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder(PTSD), generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), and even self-harm, etc. But attention-deficit/ hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, and depression are the most common problems in children.
- Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
ADHD is one of the most common mental health problems that is usually first diagnosed in childhood. And it can even last into adulthood. But if parents can find its warning sign and intervene earlier, some symptoms may improve as the child ages. Children with ADHD problems have trouble focusing, controlling their behaviors (cannot resist the urge to do something), or be overly active.
Occasionally, being sad or feeling hopeless is normal for a person, let alone a child. But when children are sunk into persistent sadness and hopeless, or irritability for a long time, they may be diagnosed with depression. They will eat a lot more or a lot less than usual, feel tense&restless, lack energy and be very tired all the time. Extreme depression can lead to suicide or suicidal tendency.
Anxiety is also the most common mental health condition of childhood. When a child has so many fears and worries that they interfere with school, home, or play activities, he or she may be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. Children’s anxiety symptoms include separation anxiety, social anxiety, general anxiety, panic disorder, etc.They will excessively worry about assignments, lose interest in things that they used to enjoy, fear of speaking up in public or attending social activities, sleeping more than usual and even show self-injury behavior.
What can parents do for children?
Usually, parents or other family members will be the first to find if a child has problems with emotions or behavior. A child’s mental health depends on parents greatly. Therefore, what they can do for children will be the key.
- Express love for your children
Tell your child that you love them. You can express your love by saying something or through your nonverbal body language – such as making eye contact, giving a hug, or smiling at your child. It's important to make them know they are loved, which can build their self-confidence, encourage them to overcome obstacles, and boost well-being.
- Pay more attention to children’s abnormal behavior
There must be some warning signs if a child will have mental health problems. If you find your child has some abnormal behavior, such as changes in sleeping or eating patterns, you should alarm your mind.
- Be a good listener to your children
Take your children’s feelings seriously and be a good listener, because “Good listening is how we convey our empathy”. Make time every day to talk and listen to your child. It can not only learn information about what's going on in your child's life, but also strengthen the parent-child bond.
- Encourage children to try physical activities and sports
Experts say physical activity has numerous benefits to the mental health of a child. Encouraging your children to try different physical activities and sports is good for their physical development, and can also help them build a better outlook on life by building confidence, managing anxiety and depression, and increasing self-esteem and cognitive skills.
- Seek professional help
There are many professional mental health organizations that can help you, if your children have mental problems. But we don’t suggest you wait until you're really suffering. There's no shame in seeking professional help. Most children who seek help feel better. Mental health professionals can help you come up with plans for solving your children’s problems.