What a decade this year has been, right? A year of social distancing, quarantine, and all things virtual. That’s what is safest and will lead us toward a normal, pandemic-free life again. But we are social beings, not meant to isolate, and that makes social distancing hard on our mental well-being — children are no exception. It’s hypothesized that children and adolescents may experience long-term adverse effects from this pandemic and quarantine.
Children’s Mental Health Week is nearing—February 3–9, 2021—and with a heightened risk, it’s important to identify and address any concerns early on
Mental Health Concerns in Children and Adolescents
A child may have mental health concerns due to heredity, biology, environmental stress, or psychological trauma. The most common conditions in children include ADHD, anxiety disorders, and behavior disorders. Such issues can negatively impact their daily lives beyond their moods if not addressed—from inadequate sleep to potentially self-harming behaviors. However, their symptoms may be more difficult to identify.
What Are Some Signs of Struggling Mental Health in Children?
Some signs that your child could be experiencing a mental health issue are:
If your child is sad for more than two weeks, they may have a mental health problem.
Avoiding Social Interactions
If your child usually is outgoing, it may be concerning if they suddenly withdraw and avoid (socially distancing) plans.
Changes in Eating Habits
This can mean loss of appetite or eating much more than what they usually consume.
Changes in Sleeping Patterns
Sleep deprivation is a common sign of mental illness, but sleeping too much can also indicate depression. Inadequate sleep can be detrimental to a child’s mental well-being because it can easily compromise and interfere with growth and development.
This sign is the most identifiable, and parents or caregivers should attend to it immediately. Self-harm, surprisingly, can be easy to hide under clothing. This may take the form of self- hitting, biting, cutting, scratching, etc.
Changes in Academic Performance
Most of these signs can create a lack of concentration and anxiety, meaning that your child may have a dramatic change in academic performance — usually first noticed by teachers.
Mental health issues should not be taboo, and there’s no need to feel ashamed if your child is struggling
What to Do When Your Child Is Struggling with Mental Health
There are a few things parents and caregivers can do to support your child struggling with mental health issues, these include:
Consult With Your Child’s Doctor
This step is a given and can significantly help you determine what kind of mental health issue is present and how to treat it. Doctors likely will try therapy of some sort before offering medication as a last resort.
Improve Your Child’s Sleep Schedule
We know sleep deprivation can be detrimental to a child’s mental state. A good way to help your child reset their sleep schedule is by creating a bedtime routine and making sure they avoid napping late in the day and avoid eating right before bed.
Offer a Safe Place
A child suffering from mental health struggles requires a place where they can feel safe that is theirs. A bedroom will likely be the chosen space, but another nook in the house may work as well.
Promote Human Interaction Safely
If your child is up for it, offer the option for frequent Zoom or FaceTime hangouts outside of school hours. While your child and his or her friends can’t physically play over a screen, there are virtual games they can play on camera.
Find Ways to Have Fun and Relax With Your Child
Finally, it’s crucial to spend time with your child and make sure they feel supported. This could mean going on weekly walks with them or taking the time to help them with school projects.
Mental health issues should not be taboo, and there’s no need to feel ashamed if your child is struggling. The most important thing parents and caregivers can do for their children is to provide love and support.