Children’s Mental Health: Recognize Stressors and Help Them Work Through It
With the importance of maintaining mental health coming to light in recent years, you will find that there is no shortage of resources for adults on the topic.
Unfortunately, there aren’t as many resources on the subject of mental health for young children. Perhaps it is because children are not thought to face mental health issues, at least not the way adults do.
But they struggle just the same, and arguably, it is more important to recognize and treat these issues in the early years, in order to prevent mental illness in adulthood.
Firstly, it is important to recognize what stressors your child may face in their daily lives.
For example, it can come in the form of social anxiety, which could easily be brushed off by parents and teachers as “shyness.” Instead of trying to force your child to “get over their shyness” by putting them into uncomfortable social situations, ease them in by starting with small group socialization and controlled situations. Try role-playing social situations at home, before going on play-dates with new people, or going to school. This will help them feel more comfortable when going into the real-life situations.
Stressors can also come from bottling up emotions. And it’s not just long-term health that can be affected when emotions are suppressed, but short-term health as well. Holding in what is upsetting them can lead to aggression, memory, anxiety and depression issues. Teach your child the importance of acknowledging the emotions they feel, whether they are “good” or “bad.” Help them to cope with these emotions by talking through what caused them to feel that way, and discuss the best way to respond to the cause. And always remember the importance of showing empathy, even if you may not understand or relate to what they’re feeling.
And lastly, don’t underestimate the power of self-care. For adults, self-care is now a commonly-used term, and is sometimes associated with the process of pampering yourself or “treating” yourself. But it is much more than that. Self-care is about self-love. And self-love should be introduced to children from the moment that they are aware of themselves.
Self-care for children can mean many different things, and it is all about building off of your child’s personality, temperament, and what they like to do to let out steam. If you have an active, high-energy child, self-care could be the act of going to the park multiple times a week for a competitive game of dodgeball, or simply running, jumping and rolling in the grass. If you have a reserved, studious child, self-care could be a visit to the local library, where they can choose a few books and sit in a cozy corner to read for an hour.
As the guiding forces in their lives, we as parents and teachers must remember to stop, listen and respond to children’s needs, not their behaviours, thus setting a path for open communication and a lifelong journey of emotional wellbeing, self-acceptance, and a happy heart.