The month of May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and May 7 is specifically Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day. At Avance Care, we know physical, mental and emotional health are all important. That’s why we provide comprehensive care services, so you can get all the care you need, right in one place for the entire family. Our team of Behavioral Health Therapists help discover new ways to understand difficulties, develop new skills to help cope with life’s demands, improve relationships, and feel and function better. For children, these skills can be immeasurably valuable as they navigate a world full of technology and ever-changing cultural standards. Read more to learn about how you and Avance Care can partner to improve your children’s mental and emotional health.
While children, adolescent, and teenage mental illness seems to have exploded over the past two years, it has always been with us. When it comes to youth and mental illness, the label or stigma can be damaging to their world. Parents, recall back to your adolescence, remembering the world you lived in and the important activities and events in your lives. The developmental stage for children today is the same, but the activities, influences, and culture are vastly different. Regardless of those influences, children still aim for the same goals of social acceptance and success.
Kids today are still trying to fit in, reconnect with friends at school, and adjust to the school environment after two years of pandemic isolation. They are worried about their future and what it will look like. They are worried about attending college or trying something different, like exploring the world or finding a job. Kids now have phones and social media accounts which can be both a help and hindrance, but also involve things such as cyberbullying which parents are not familiar with. These factors all play a role in the mental health crisis we are seeing among the younger population.
Understanding mental illness in children, adolescents, and teenagers takes an open mind and a willingness to see the world from their eyes. The cell phone has become a lifeline for kids to stay connected with their friends. These devices are their first choice when relating to their friends and understanding the world they live in, specifically social media such as Snapchat, Instagram, and TikTok. Many parents I talk to struggle with the role social media plays in their children’s lives, as well as the frustration they have with understanding the ins and outs of all the apps their children use.
Things to watch for:
- Teenagers will isolate and not talk with parents and be attached to their phones for connection with peers. Aggressive behavior, yelling, appetite change, moodiness, reckless behavior, and pushing boundaries and rules, are all signs to watch out for when it comes to your child’s mental health.
- Adolescents will seek out approval in positive or negative ways, i.e., anger and aggression or pleasing. Some may have destructive tendencies or lashing out at siblings.
- Children can have outbursts and not be able to explain why they are emotional but can draw their feelings. All kids can have appetite changes, moodiness, and loss of interests that used to be important.
What parents can do:
- Recognize these differences and have a conversation with your child. Allow them to say what they are thinking without judgement.
- Teens struggle with expressing emotions, but this may not be an issue. Letting your teen know you are there to talk without forcing them is important. Allow them to come to you first.
- Adolescents may be more inclined to talk with a parent than teens. For young girls, consider a mother-daughter connection notebook. Use the pages to draw how you are feeling, what you are looking forward to, etc. This is a private, no judgement notebook! Pick out the book together and a special pen that is passed between you two. For boys, have a special snack out for him or if he likes a sport, play the sport with him, and just start a conversation about his life.
- Children often have trouble truly expressing their wants and needs. An idea is to take them to the park for a walk or bike ride and find out how they’re feeling and what they’re going through. You could both draw your feelings or your favorite day and then draw sadness to get a better understanding of what those emotions look like to them.
Kids want to be heard and want their parents to understand how they see life. A child’s view of the world is different than a parent’s view. One way to improve mental health is to give them the opportunity to express their feelings and discuss situations, no matter how intense it becomes from the child’s side.
If you are concerned about your child’s mental health, connect with an Avance Care Behavioral Health Therapist. Our team of therapists offer both in-person and virtual appointments to fit your needs. Avance Care Behavioral Health takes patients ages 5 and up.