Are the Kids Okay? – Children & Mental Health

With a million competing opinions about parenting (don’t hold me to that number, math is not my forte), it’s rare to find a parent who’s not besieged by fears about their child’s emotional, mental and physical well being. I’m no exception. I worry if I’m too overbearing, if I’m too protective, if my kid is eating too much, sleeping enough, has enough friends and how they are managing when I’m not around. I often talk with my friends about our parenting concerns, but sometimes I come away with more worries than I started with. There have been times when I’ve found it a relief to go to our Nurse Practitioner and even a psychologist just to be sure everything is okay, and if not, if we’re doing the right things. One thing I’ve learned is that, no matter what is going on with your child, you cannot go wrong if you…

Listen closely and support your child’s emotions. There’s no wrong way to feel. Let them know that you are on their side.

Here are just some things that parents come to talk to me about: Kids with sleep difficulties – unable to sleep alone, difficulty falling asleep or issues with night terrors or sleepwalking. Kids that are extremely shy and don’t want to leave their parent. Sometimes this is accompanied by stomach aches. Bed wetting or potty training concerns. Temper tantrums or rages where kids will break things, harm or threaten to harm others or themselves. Kids withdrawing. Kids talking about suicide or parents discovering their child has been cutting or burning or harming themselves in some way. Fears about addictions and concerns about sexual behaviours.

Here are the steps I use to determine when to seek extra help and how to intervene:

1. Check developmental stages for appropriateness for behaviours.

For Sexual development and behavior in children see:                                                sexualdevelopmentandbehavior

For psychosocial developmental stages see: Erickson’spsychosocialdevmodel

For early moral development stages see: Dr. Sears’ early stages of moral development   

For later moral development stages see: Kohlberg’s stages of moral development

For insight on the teenage brain check out this documentary on “The Nature of Things” called “Surviving the Teenage Brain.

2. Check triggering situations

This might be conflict with friends, a recent loss, stress in the home, changes in routine, etc. Address these with listening, comfort and brainstorming alternative ways to manage.

  • CONSIDER when to share about conflict in the home or stress among parents. Don’t need to hide everything from kids. They can guess when something’s wrong and will conclude the worst. Consider what is age appropriate (something that adults are working on, there’s a plan for addressing this, or can be resolved in front of them.)             Teen boy
  • *A note about separation and divorce– how you care for yourself and talk about your ex will most strongly impact your child. Having one solid base for child and adult they feel emotionally safe with and who can meet their needs consistently.

Listen closely and support your child’s emotions. There’s no wrong way to feel. Let them know you are on their side. 

3.See your GP for any physical complaints or sleep issues.

A GP may also be a start for evaluating other symptoms or behavioral changes and can refer as needed to specialists including psychologist or psychiatrist, as needed. Sometimes, just knowing that you’re taking complaints seriously can improve the situation for the child.

4. Consult with a counsellor, or parent coach yourself, before bringing your child in.

Finding ways to for you to address their needs may be more effective than relying on another to do this. Kids have mixed responses to talking to a stranger about their problems, just like adults do.

5. Consider family counselling.

6. Bring your child to appropriate help as needed or as advised by the counsellor or family doctor. 

i.e. Psychological Assessment or learning centres for learning disabilities or behavioral evaluation.

ALWAYS take talk of suicide seriously.

Contact your local crisis line for guidance.

ALWAYS take self harming behaviours seriously.

If you notice cuts or burns on your child’s body and they not willing to talk to you about it, ask if they would be willing to someone else about it (for example, a guidance counsellor, another adult family member, etc).

Contact your local crisis line for guidance.

And finally… 

Keep listening closely and supporting your child’s emotions. There’s no wrong way to feel. Let them know that you are on their side.

3 little boys

 

For more on parenting see Too Many Sticks & Carrots

For more on teens and mental health see TEENAGERS!!!

Also see Staying Together, after Kids

You might also want to check out What do Adults do for Fun?

7 thoughts on “Are the Kids Okay? – Children & Mental Health

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