Is Your Child Struggling with Mental Health Issues?

Is Your Child Struggling with Mental Health Issues?

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Children have a lot on their minds. They’re always learning new things and facing challenges they’ve never handled before. 

You know your child best. You can support them now and in the future by showing them ways to build good mental health.

What Is Mental Health?

Good mental health is an important part of total health. Mental health includes our emotional, psychological and social well-being, says the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. leaving site icon Our mental health affects how we think and feel. It determines how we act. It also influences how we handle stress and make choices. Mental health is vital at each stage of life, from childhood and teen years through adulthood.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says mentally healthy children have a positive quality of life and can function well at home, in school and in their communities. They reach developmental and emotional milestones and learn healthy social skills and how to cope when there are problems.

Many children sometimes have fears and worries and may show disruptive behaviors. That doesn’t mean there is a mental health problem that needs to be addressed. But if the signs of a problem are serious and persistent and interfere with school or other activities, share your concerns with your child’s doctor.

Anxiety and Depression

Anxiety and depression are common issues for children. They may show up as fear, worry or sadness. Some children may be angry or grouchy.

These issues can also rob children of good sleep and bring on headaches or stomach aches. Often children won’t share their worries, so some signs are easy to miss.

Mental Health America offers a list of some of the changes in behavior to look for:

  • Dips in grades, even when they are trying hard
  • Repeated refusal to do schoolwork or go to school
  • Avoiding normal activities
  • Unusual fidgeting
  • Frequent nightmares
  • Persistent disobedience or tantrums
  • Sadness
How to Cope

Let children know it’s just as important to take care of their mental health as it is to take care of physical health. Encourage them to share their feelings. Make sure they know it’s OK to reach out if they’re sad or worried.

Learning to identify and manage self-defeating thoughts can be one way to cope. It’s also helpful to find new ways to build social relationships. That can help with anxiety, depression and loneliness. Committing to help others is another way to fight loneliness.

Tips for Building Resilience

Learning ways to process and release emotions is a key skill for children and adults. These are habits that will help the whole family’s mental and emotional resilience:

  • Make home a safe haven
  • Keep up physical health
  • Stay in the present
  • Don’t assume the worst
  • Look for joy
  • Find a purpose
  • Help others
  • Find things you can do now
  • Strengthen relationships

If self-care steps don’t make a difference, talk with your child’s doctor. They may be able to help or suggest a qualified therapist, counselor or psychologist.

The Link Between Nutrition and Mental Health

What they’re eating, or not eating, may be affecting your family’s mental health. Research shows that nutrition can play a vital role in regulating our mental and emotional health. Learn more.

Sources: What Is Children’s Mental Health, leaving site icon Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 2023; Anxiety and Depression in Children, leaving site icon CDC, 2023; What Is Mental Health?, leaving site icon SAMHSA, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2023; Raising kids who care about others and the common good, leaving site icon Harvard Graduate School of Education, 2021; How to Help Children Build Resilience in Uncertain Times, leaving site icon American Academy of Pediatrics, 2020; Recognizing Mental Health Problems in Children, leaving site icon Mental Health America

Originally published 7/1/2022; Revised 2023

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