Speak to your child about mental health – start young & do it often

As a mother of a young teen, I know the struggles our children go through every day. Even the well-adjusted children with no mental health issues seem to struggle in today’s world. Now, more than ever, it is imperative that we talk to our kids about mental health and consistently ask them how they are doing when it comes to their particular mental health. You may think your child is fine but that is not always the case. Especially as tweens and teens, they are able to put on a front of being okay even if they’re not.

Between school, COVID-19 changes, social media, friend drama, peer pressure, and self-pressure, kids today, especially teens, are constantly bombarded with stressful situations. They are so connected to one another through social media and cell phones, that they don’t have a chance to shut off the world and just relax and be a kid. This is adding to and making worse the mental health issues many children face.

What can we do as parents?
For starters, as a parent in today’s world, we must know our child from the inside out. Who are their friends? What are their struggles? Do they have any anxieties? What are their hopes and dreams and does this in itself stress them out?

How do we do this?
There are many ways as parents to get to the heart of our child. Number one is talking to them honestly and openly. Let them know that they can tell you things without repercussions. Open up that line of communication. Build a bond of trust that makes them want to talk to you about what may be troubling them in their life. The good things are easy to talk about. The hard things may take time and as a parent, patience is definitely a virtue. Remember: ask questions, pay attention, start a conversation, and listen.

Click here to learn more.

Start when they are young.
Waiting until your child is a teen to build that trust may not work out in your favor. As teens, children tend to shut down more towards the parent. Having this system of trust already in place from a younger age can help ease the stress that comes from having a heart to heart with your parent.

Remember the Sources of Strength Wheel.
Let your child know the sources of strength that are available to them. Each area of their life can be covered with these strengths but only once they are aware and knowledgable in their use. The vision of Sources of Strength is this, “We believe that many strengths are more powerful than one, and our united goal is to activate and mobilize these strengths in ways that positively change individuals and communities.”

These sources of strength include:

  • Family Support
  • Positive Friends
  • Mentors
  • Healthy Activities
  • Generosity
  • Spirituality
  • Physical Health
  • Mental Health

Each of these has its own impact and hopefully, positive results. You can teach your child to utilize each and every one while building a strong relationship and giving them the tools they need to succeed.

If your child suffers from an actual mental illness, be sure to get them the help they need. Teach them that it’s okay to reach out for help. The younger, the better. This can set them on the right path for life. Let’s all break the stigma that is put on mental illness and give our children a brighter future.

Here are 10 very scary stats about mental health in children and young people:

  • 3.2% of children aged 3-17 years (approximately 1.9 million) have been diagnosed with depression
  • 7.1% of children aged 3-17 years (approximately 4.4 million) have diagnosed anxiety
  • 27,985 children aged 14-21 with autism, emotional disturbance, or other health impairments including ADHD drop out of school each year
  • Approximately 1 in 5 youth aged 13–18 (21.4%) experience a severe mental disorder at some point during their life. For children aged 8–15, the estimate is 13%
  • 75% of social phobia manifests by age 15
  • Fifty percent of mental health disorders begin before age 14 and 75% before age 24
  • One in 10 young people experienced a period of major depression
  • Over 1.7 million youth with major depressive episodes did not receive treatment (That is enough to fill every major league baseball stadium on the east coast…twice.)
  • 17.1 million young people have or have had a diagnosable psychiatric disorder
  • Suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15–29-year-olds
For a list of resources in Fremont County, click here.

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