Supporting Your Children to Cope with Mental Health Challenges
Early childhood experiences significantly affect personality, behavioural patterns, emotional regulation, and social relatedness in an adult's life. Numerous research showed that adverse childhood experiences affect individual mental health in adulthood. Children who experience loving and trusting relationships with their caregivers develop healthy self-esteem and a positive outlook. On the other hand, children who experience bullying, rejection and emotional abandonment in their early childhood are at risk for depression, anxiety, and other mental health challenges later in life.
How caregivers respond to their children's mental health challenges also plays a crucial role in how youths perceive themselves when they grow up. Research shows that children who receive earlier help for their mental health challenges develop a better capacity to deal with challenges when growing up. Caregivers who support their children receiving help demonstrate to their children that having mental health challenges is part of life and thus possible to overcome. Caregivers who dismiss their children's emotions and negative experiences can cause them to feel that their experiences are invalid. Such children often grow up ashamed of themselves and their experiences.
Although everyone has moments where they feel down or upset, there are times when the issues are more serious. Signs indicating your children are facing severe mental health challenges include:
Withdraws from close family members or friends
Stops engaging in interests or hobbies, like sports
Seems more irritable, emotional or upset than usual
Has trouble with school
Seems more worried, anxious or stressed
Seems less confident or assured and expresses more hopelessness
Makes comments like "Nobody will care if I'm gone" related to suicide
It is important not to dismiss emotions if your children are going through a difficult time or facing anxiety or depression. It is very unhelpful to tell them to get over it and move on because children may not have developed the capacity to overcome the problem on their own yet. Leaving children to face mental health challenges alone can make them feel that no one cares, which leads to a higher risk of becoming suicidal. Moreover, untreated mental health issues can develop into more severe psychological disorders that impede your child's daily functioning and life.
Be proactive in providing support. Contact a mental health professional if you are concerned about your children's mental well-being. A professional counsellor or psychotherapist can help your children process their challenges. They can also help you with the skills to relate to and support your children.
Restoring Peace Counselling & Consultancy offers psychotherapy and play therapy services for children, youth, adults and their families. For more information, please visit www.restoringpeace.com.sg or WhatsApp at +65 8889 1848.
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