Mental health issues in our children are increasing at an alarming rate. What can you do to help ease your child’s anxiety and fears?
How can I nurture my child’s mental health?Help children build strong, caring relationships:
- It’s important for children and youth to have strong relationships with family and friends. Spend some time together each night around the dinner table.
- A significant person who is consistently present in a child’s life plays a crucial role in helping them develop resilience. This person—often a parent or other family member—is someone your child spends a lot of time with and knows they can turn to when they need help.
- Show your children how to solve problems.
- Show lots of love and acceptance.
- Praise them when they do well. Recognize their efforts as well as what they achieve.
- Ask questions about their activities and interests.
- Help them set realistic goals.
- It’s OK for children and youth to feel sad or angry. Encourage them to talk about how they feel.
- Keep communication and conversation flowing by asking questions and listening to your child. Mealtime can be a good time for talking.
- Help your child find someone to talk to if they don’t feel comfortable talking to you.
- Be aware of your child’s media use, both the content and the amount of time spent on screens. This includes TV, movies, Internet, and gaming devices. Be aware of who they might be interacting with on social media and online games.
- Be careful about discussing serious family issues—such as finances, marital problems, or illness—around your children. Children can worry about these things.
- Provide time for physical activity, play, and family activities.
- Be a role model by taking care of your own mental health: Talk about your feelings. Make time for things you enjoy.
- Teach your child how to relax when they feel upset. This could be deep breathing, doing something calming (such as a quiet activity they enjoy), taking some time alone, or going for a walk.
- Talk about possible solutions or ideas to improve a situation and how to make it happen. Try not to take over.
How do I know if my child or youth has a mental health problem?All children and youth are different. If you’re concerned your child may have a problem, look at whether there are changes in the way they think, feel or act. Mental health problems can also lead to physical changes. Ask yourself how your child is doing at home, at school and with friends.
Changes in thinking
- Saying negative things about themselves or blaming themselves for things beyond their control.
- Trouble concentrating.
- Frequent negative thoughts.
- Changes in school performance.
Changes in feelings
- Reactions or feelings that seem bigger than the situation.
- Seeming very unhappy, worried, guilty, fearful, irritable, sad, or angry.
- Feeling helpless, hopeless, lonely or rejected.
Changes in behaviour
- Wanting to be alone often.
- Crying easily.
- Showing less interest in or withdrawing from sports, games or other activities that they normally enjoy.
- Over-reacting, or sudden outbursts of anger or tears over small incidents.
- Seeming quieter than usual, less energetic.
- Trouble relaxing or sleeping.
- Spending a lot of time daydreaming.
- Falling back to less mature behaviours.
- Trouble getting along with friends.
- Headaches, tummy aches, neck pain, or general aches and pains.
- Lack of energy, or feeling tired all the time.
- Sleeping or eating problems.
- Too much energy or nervous habits such as nail biting, hair twisting or thumb sucking.
Where do I go for help?There are many ways to help your child achieve good mental health. Sharing your concerns with the doctor is one of them. Talk to your child’s doctor:
- if the behaviours described above last for a while, or if they interfere with your child’s ability to function;
- if you have concerns about your child’s emotional and mental health;
- about your child’s behavioural development and emotional health at each well-child visit.