April is Stress Awareness Month. Stress can directly affect children’s mental health.
Here are some great insights and tips for parents to talk to their children about mental health.
- Mental health-related emergency room visits increased substantially for children and teens during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the proportion of related visits were up 24% for children five to 11 years old and 31% for children 12 to 17 years when compared to the same time period in 2019.
- Children and adolescents might not be equipped with the same coping skills as adults. They also might not have the words to explain what they’re feeling.
- Normalize talking about feelings and everything else
- Regularly check in about the day-to-day
- Naming feelings and talk about them in age-appropriate ways
- Listen without judgement
- Letting children and teens know they are heard and that their feelings are valid will build trust
- While it’s tempting to “fix” a problem, it may be enough to listen
- Discuss difficult topics
- Talking about depression or suicide might feel scary, but being open and honest about mental health conditions can save lives
- While there’s a perception that talking about suicide could lead to increased thoughts of suicide, research has shown that the opposite is true: talking about suicide can encourage those in danger to seek help
- Know when to seek help
- Be on the lookout for these symptoms in children:
- Avoiding friends and social activities
- Changes in eating or sleeping habits
- Changes in school performance
- Excessive worry or anxiety
- Hyperactive behavior
- Frequent nightmares
- Frequent disobedience or aggression
- Substance use
- If parents or caregivers suspect a child needs help, talking to a primary care physician is a good first step.
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