We Need to Talk About Children’s Mental Health
How many times have you found yourself in a situation when you just needed a break? Our lives often feel like a constant source of challenges, as we juggle between work, raising children, having a healthy relationship with our partner, and finding some time for ourselves. We’re all well-aware of the importance of taking a breather.
But how good are we at allowing those breaks to our children? To me, it seems that modern parenting has taken a turn towards the extreme.
More often than not, I’m surprised to hear that parents don’t only prioritize school performance. But, even more shockingly, they don’t allow their children to take a mental health day from school.
And, sure, I understand that as a working professional, organizing childcare can be a challenge. But, in no way do I believe that that’s a good enough excuse to potentially sacrifice our children’s mental health and emotional wellbeing.
A Pandemic of Mental Wellbeing Issues
If we look at the data surrounding children’s mental health, we’ll find that it’s a topic that needs more exposure. Exponentially more.
According to the CDC, among kids between the ages of 3-17 in the U.S. alone, 7.1% have been diagnosed with anxiety. Furthermore, 3.2% have been diagnosed with depression.
And, the rest of the world isn’t lagging either.
A recent survey conducted by UNICEF revealed that less than four-fifths of children are satisfied with their lives in most countries. According to the results, the lowest life satisfaction rates are present in Turkey (where only 53% of kids are happy with their lives), followed by Japan and the United Kingdom.
With all this data, it’s clear that we, parents, have to do more to protect our children’s emotional wellbeing. But what can we do? And how can we find the right balance between teaching work ethic and showing the importance of self-care?
Start By Identifying Potential Stressors for Kids
Sure it’s crucial to understand that some issues simply can’t be prevented or cured. Still, there’s quite a lot that parents can do to help their children achieve mental wellbeing.
For one, we must learn how to identify potential stressors that hurt our kids.
While bullying, family issues, and changing environments tend to cause the most harm, they’re far from being the only sources of stress for kids.
Knowing this, we must take the time to talk to our kids about the everyday challenges they face at school and at home. Moreover, we must pay attention to how they’re coping with the different situations they come across in life.
Sometimes, kids (especially teens) won’t feel comfortable talking about their feelings (or know how to express their emotions). But, if we’re there and have a solid understanding of what they’re going through, we might still be able to help them deal with those issues without developing the wrong coping mechanisms.
Working to Prevent Burnout
The second highly impactful strategy parents can take to nurture emotional wellbeing among kids of all ages is to stress the importance of high-quality rest.
Kids who seem unmotivated, who procrastinate, have mood swings, or have a negative disposition might be suffering from burnout (which is not that uncommon amongst grownups either). Fortunately, however, it can be effectively prevented with the right approach.
For example, blocking out a couple of hours every day for relaxing activities (reading or family game nights rather than video games and TV) makes for the perfect opportunity for school-age children to unwind.
Moreover, try to reserve the weekends for family relaxation. Time spent in nature, for example, doesn’t just have a positive effect on physical health. It could also aid stress management and boost creativity.
Finally, don’t hesitate to allow your child to take that mental health day when they need it. Of course, don’t just allow them to stay home from school whenever they don’t feel like going. But, you can agree to let them take a day off once or twice a year.
On these days, have them avoid unproductive behaviors (like binge-watching TV or sleeping all day). Instead, encourage them to do something they’ll benefit from. That can be working on a creative project, learning something new, or even seeing a mental health professional.
Final Thoughts: Good Mental Health Is an Ongoing Process
Here’s the deal: I believe that we, parents, have to do everything in our power to set our kids up for success. But, it’s not a bad thing to remember that, sometimes, it’s perfectly OK to take a step back.
Yes, school performance is important. And so is a good work ethic. But in the end, they mean nothing if our children aren’t feeling emotionally healthy.
So, if what it takes is an occasional day away from school, then I believe that’s a sacrifice worth making. Just as long as it’s not the only thing we’re doing to support our children’s mental wellbeing and approach to self-care.
This guest post was authored by Sarah Kaminski
Sarah is a life enjoyer, positivity seeker, and a curiosity enthusiast. She is passionate about an eco-friendly lifestyle and adores her cats. She is an avid reader who loves to travel when time allows.