There are increasing problems with mental health in children. Parents usually have an emotional reaction when children have a problem with their mental health because it can affect the whole family. They may be more vulnerable to this than adults. The article aims to provide information on how parents can support their child’s mental health and promote healthy coping strategies when they have mood disorders or other difficulties.

What is a parent’s role?

Whether it is during COVID 19 or other times, parents play a crucial part in preventing or treating a range of common mental disorders in youngsters, such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and behavioral issues, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Parents should let kids know that talking about feelings is nothing to be ashamed of. They should also encourage kids to seek help if they need it by pointing out that everyone has problems sometimes and feels better by getting help.

How to know your child might have a mental health problem –Michael Osland

Many symptoms might indicate a child has an emotional or behavioral difficulty. These include changes in behavior at home, school, or in relationships with siblings or friends. If the child withdraws from family life or is unusually irritable, has problems sleeping or eating, or has trouble concentrating. These issues can often be dealt with by parents who recognize they are happening and take steps to deal with them, low mood or poor self-image, withdrawal from social activities, lack of interest in usual activities, excessive worry or anxiety about family relationships or making friends.

Some children may show harmful behaviors such as substance misuse, including the use of drugs and alcohol (and other substances), self-harm behavior (cutting themselves), rituals (repetitive behaviors), violence against animals, property, or other people.

What can parents do?

Parents can help by ‘normalizing’ children’s feelings and making them feel it is okay to talk about their emotions during this stressful pandemic. It may even be helpful for parents to keep a diary noting any changes in behavior to see what is happening. If the child seems unhappy, this journal could help identify why this might be occurring. Sometimes anxiety makes it more difficult for people to express themselves or put into words what they are feeling. This means that some problems might go unnoticed until later on when they escalate. Parents should also encourage children to think positively of themselves and praise good work instead of criticizing mistakes.

Behavioral and relationship issues can also be signs of something wrong, such as arguing or fighting with other children. If the fighting between siblings gets worse over time, it might indicate a problem such as ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). Parents should try to encourage the kids to play together and talk about what happened advises Michael Osland.

Parents should stop any physical punishment towards their children, increasing the chances of mental health problems in the future. It is also important not to label children as ‘bad’ just because they have done something wrong, rather than finding out why they did it.

It is also beneficial to let children know that support is available and encourage them to seek it if they need it. These early intervention strategies can prevent or reduce mental health difficulties in younger people. However, younger people should still be encouraged to seek help if their feelings escalate and continue over a longer time.