Mental Health

10 Ways To Support Your Child’s Mental Health

Refusal to go to school, sudden isolation, mood swings, tantrums—is it a phase or something more? Regardless, it is important to support your little one. Here are ten solid ways suggested by an expert to support your child’s mental health.

By Ameya Arora
23 Jun 2022

According to a 2009 study published in the Indian Journal of Psychiatry, at any given point in time, nearly 50 million Indian children suffer from mental health disorders, and if we consider adolescents as well, this number only goes up. Dr. Shreya Chakravarty, a psychologist at Apollo Health City, Hyderabad, believes that the possible reason behind such a steep number of mental health issues among children could be that many adults think that kids who are suffering from certain issues are just “going through a growing stage”.

 

It is perhaps hard to figure out if children are experiencing behavioural or mental health issues, or are just passing from a developmental phase of life. As a result, most adults believe that their child’s problems cannot be as serious as their own problems. Dr. Shreya says that “this couldn’t be further from the truth—particularly for those who grow up in less-than-ideal circumstances (e.g., in poverty or with an abusive parent or environment of neglect).”

 

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Prior to the pandemic, 1 in 5 children had a mental health disorder, and only 20 percent of these received care from a mental health provider, according to a report published by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A report published by UNICEF shows that more than 330 million youngsters have been stuck at home with limited access to schools, playgrounds, and their friends during the pandemic. All such factors act as potential causes for rising mental health concerns since the pandemic.

 

According to a 2020 study conducted on 1000 parents by Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, 71 percent parents feel that pandemic has taken a toll on their child’s mental health, and 69 percent report that pandemic is the worst thing ever to happen to their child.

 

A child can experience a number of challenges, and usually a parent identifies the physical challenges easily. They provide medical treatment when their child is sick, but how often do they effectively identify emotional and psychological challenges faced by their child? According to Dr. Shreya, to effectively deal with the stresses and challenges of life, healthy mental health is supreme. She says that even though child mental health is an area which is still very neglected, society and the parents should realise that to become a happy, healthy and successful adult, it is important that every child must have sound mental health along with physical health.

 

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Dr. Shreya shares the following red flags which are indicative of child’s mental health crisis:

  • Sudden behavioural changes
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Decrease in appetite or binge eating
  • Refusal to go to school
  • Sudden isolation
  • Sudden mood swings
  • Decline is school performance
  • Anxiety, depression, sadness or irritability
  • Frequent temper tantrums

 

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Parents Can Nurture Their Child’s Mental Health In The Following Ways:

Dr. Shreya suggests that parents can support their child in the following ways which can lead to successful parenting and a healthy child development.

 

1. Spend Time With Your Child And Listen To Him/Her/Them

There are a number of ways in which you can spend quality time with your child. You can play board games, or outdoor games like badminton on your lawn for 30 to 60 minutes. You can help them with their homework, or encourage them to do chores together. Lastly, a family movie night is a classic. Nothing beats a bowl of popcorn and an animated film on your couch.

 

2. Do Not Compare Your Child With Other Children, Not Even Among Two Siblings

Comparison with others can make anyone, not just a child, feel less worthy and incapable. It can also give rise to antisocial behaviour. Dr. Shreya suggests that if needed, one can always give an example of others, but no comparison. Telling your child "your cousin stood first in her class, why can't you learn from her and score good marks?"; can cause your child to doubt their capabilities. Rather, try saying the following: "when you were in your primary grades, you used to enjoy and perform well in Mathematics. Are you facing any difficulty? If yes, you should let us know, we'll arrange private tuition for you". Giving an example is a healthy way to motivate your child to do better, and it does not question your child’s capabilities.

 

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3. Express Your Feelings Openly

As a parent, you must express your love toward your child verbally and non-verbally. Appreciating your child whole-heartedly for their achievement; to mindfully telling them that they have disappointed you by doing something unethical, is a key to a healthy relationship.

 

4. Do Not Pamper Your Child Excessively

Fulfilling literally all the demands of a child can make them think that it is easy to get things done without any effort. Thus, it is for the child’s own good that parents should know when it is appropriate to intervene. Don't be overly protective of your child as it may limit their capabilities of handling stressful situations or they may act over independently.

 

5. Be Approachable To Your Child

Being approachable means that you show a genuine interest in your child, and pay full attention to them. It is important that your child feels that you are there to listen to them. You can be approachable to your child by putting your phone away and engaging in a play or a meaningful conversation where your child has a safe space to talk.

 

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6. Don’t Be Too Harsh Or Too Lenient With Your Child

Guide your child’s behaviour and action in a constructive and positive way. Be consistent while disciplining your child, use a positive approach that doesn’t destroy the child’s confidence or self-worth. For instance, if your child is being difficult, you can distract them with a positive activity, such as changing the topic, introducing a game, talking them outdoors or to another room. Another way is to warn your child about the consequences of their bad behaviour. For example, if your child scribbles on the walls, you can warn them that they should scribble in their notebook, or else you will end their play time.

 

7. Teach your child skills to resolve conflicts and solve problems in constructive ways.

 

8. Encourage your child to develop positive social relationships.

 

9. Teach your child that sometimes failure leads the path towards success and to have a positive outlook while facing challenges.

 

10. Help Your Child To Set And Have Realistic Goals And Attitudes

Unrealistic goals are the stepping stone of unfulfilled desires and failure. You can help your child set realistic goals by first talking to them about their bigger dreams, the purpose behind it, talk about how they plan to achieve it, and then help them divide into smaller and more realistic steps. You can also brainstorm potential obstacles so that your child is ready to combat them effectively.

 

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A powerful message by Dr. Shreya for our parent-readers:

“I strongly believe, practice, and preach that each individual has two childhood and adolescence stages in their life span, one of their own, and one of their child/children. Parents must not fulfill their unattained dreams through their child’s. They should also consider hardships faced by them in their childhood and help their child to overcome their hardships. Aim of parenting is preparing a child for life as a productive and contributive individual who can deal with challenges of life effectively, to keep a positive perspective towards life in general, to give value and cherish life as whole.”

 

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