Mental health challenges among children and adolescents are a growing concern in today's society. Dr. Lucy Underwood, owner and Licensed Professional Counselor at Underwood Counseling & Consultation, PLLC, sheds light on common issues and offers guidance for parents navigating their children's mental well-being.
A study conducted from 2014 to 2018 called The Project To Learn About Youth Mental Health (PLAY–MH) revealed that ADHD, anxiety problems, behavior problems and depression are the most commonly diagnosed mental disorders among children. Depression and anxiety have shown an increasing trend over time, with anxiety being the most prevalent condition followed by symptoms of oppositional defiance and ADHD.
Parents play a crucial role in identifying signs of mental health issues in their children. Dr. Underwood advises parents to look for significant changes in their child's learning, behavior or emotional regulation that cause distress and impact daily functioning. If symptoms persist and interfere with school, home or play activities, a mental health disorder may be present.
Open communication is key to fostering a supportive environment. Dr. Underwood encourages parents to lead by example, discussing both their accomplishments and struggles. Engaging in problem-solving discussions and providing guidance empowers children to develop healthy judgment, problem-solving skills and decision-making abilities.
Early intervention is paramount when addressing mental health concerns in children. Assessing risk factors and protective factors helps identify potential issues. Mental Health America describes four categories—Health, Safety or Security, Resources and Relationships—that encompass factors influencing mental well-being. Addressing harmful factors and promoting helpful ones in each category can support children's recovery and resilience.
Differentiating between typical teenage moodiness and more serious mental health issues can be challenging. Dr. Underwood suggests avoiding negative reactions to mood swings and setting clear boundaries. Understanding that teenagers are going through significant internal and social changes is crucial. Paying attention to changes in behavior, interests, weight and participation in activities can help identify warning signs that may necessitate professional help, she states.
Parents can best support their children by seeking professional assistance. Mental health professionals can evaluate contributing factors and provide appropriate interventions. Additionally, scheduling checkups with pediatricians or family doctors can help identify underlying health issues. Consistent routines, quality sleep and balanced nutrition are vital for overall well-being.
Incorporating specific practices into daily routines can enhance children's mental health. Spending quality time without distractions, engaging in creative activities, and nurturing self-esteem are beneficial. Encouraging healthy social interactions, such as outdoor activities and travel, promotes positive connections and stimulates the brain in a neurochemical way.
To manage stress and anxiety, Dr. Underwood emphasizes the importance of consistent sleep, good nutrition and socialization. Parents should set realistic expectations aligned with their child's developmental capabilities and teach healthy problem-solving skills.
By understanding the challenges and implementing effective strategies, parents can play an essential role in supporting their children's mental health and fostering their overall well-being. Seeking professional help and maintaining open lines of communication create a strong foundation for children and adolescents to thrive in today's complex world.
Promoting Positive Mental Health: Strategies for Parents
- Show healthy ways to cope with emotions.
- Create a safe space for children to express their feelings.
- Establish routines to provide stability and security.
- Don't shy away from discussing difficult subjects.
- Teach children how to manage and express emotions in a healthy manner.