Recognizing Signs of Mental Health Struggles in Children
Posted: October 04, 2021 | Written By: Jamie Myers, M. Ed. | Category: At Home Help
According to the Centers for Disease Control, 1 in 6 children between the ages of 2 and 8 are diagnosed with a mental, behavioral, or developmental disorder (CDC.gov). While these conditions are easily recognized in adults, it can be a challenge to recognize them in children, especially teenagers who are already experiencing hormonal changes. Here is a look at some of the common mental health conditions, as well as suggestions for identifying them and supporting a child who may be suffering.
Common Mental Health Conditions in Children:
Anxiety Disorders- children struggle with persistent fears, worries, or anxiety that disrupts their ability to participate in everyday activities such as play, school, or age-appropriate social situations.
Eating Disorders- can be described as a preoccupation with an ideal body type, disordered thinking about weight and weight loss, and unsafe eating and dieting habits.
Depression and Mood Disorders- Depression is a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. This condition affects your child’s ability to function in school and interact with others.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)- children who have been exposed to violence, abuse, injury, or other traumatic events can experience prolonged emotional distress, anxiety, unsettling memories, nightmares, and disruptive behaviors.
How Do I Identify if My Child Is Struggling?
- Persistent sadness — two or more weeks
- Withdrawing from or avoiding social interactions
- Hurting oneself or talking about hurting oneself
- Talking about death or suicide
- Outbursts or extreme irritability
- Out-of-control behavior that can be harmful
- Drastic changes in mood, behavior, or personality
- Changes in eating habits
- Weight Loss
- Difficulty sleeping
- Frequent headaches or stomachaches
- Difficulty concentrating
- Changes in academic performance
- Avoiding or missing school
What Can I Do to Support My Child?
If you are concerned that your child is struggling with a mental health condition you should begin by consulting your child’s doctor. Prior to your visit be sure to make a list of behaviors that concern not only you but other adults close to your child including, teachers, caregivers, relatives, and close friends. To make a diagnosis the child’s doctor will likely recommend that your child be evaluated by a clinician, such as a child psychiatrist or psychologist.
Following the evaluation, the clinician may determine a diagnosis and may prescribe treatment.
How Do I Help My Child Cope?
As a parent you will play an integral role in supporting your child’s treatment plan. To not only care for yourself but your child you can engage in the following:
- Learn about the illness.
- Consider family counseling that treats all members as partners in the treatment plan.
- Ask your child's mental health professional for advice on how to respond to your child and handle difficult behavior.
- Enroll in parent training programs, particularly those designed for parents of children with a mental illness.
- Explore stress management techniques to help you respond calmly.
- Seek ways to relax and have fun with your child.
- Praise your child's strengths and abilities.
- Work with your child's school to secure necessary support.
If you are a parent of a child with a mental health condition and need support, resources can be provided by your child’s school or clinician.
Want to be notified of new articles and resources from New Story Schools? Click here to submit your email and opt into our newsletter.
Team Member Spotlight: Anthony Fleming - Mental Health Associate (MHA)
March 13, 2023
Team Member Spotlight: Mark Sprouse - Behavior Support Leader
March 08, 2023
Pennsylvania Transition Resources
February 28, 2023
Rivermont Career Technical Education Programs Provide Students with Career Training and Opportunities
February 23, 2023