What you need to know about your child’s mental health
Are you worried your child may be struggling? Learn how to spot signs their mental health is deteriorating, and how best to help them.
Research by The Children’s Society has reported that the likelihood of young people having a mental health problem has increased by 50% over the past three years. And today, up to five children in a classroom of 30 are likely to have a mental health problem.
Our children’s relationship with their smartphones is also an increasing problem, with 23% of young people having a dysfunctional relationship with their smartphones, which is associated with poorer mental health.
To help parents navigate children’s mental health, Envirofone has collaborated with Dr Kalanit Ben-Ari, a child development expert, psychologist, family therapist, and founder of an online parenting community empowered by experts The Village, to share tips on how to spot if your child is suffering from their mental health, and how to approach the situation.
How mental health issues can affect a child
Mental health issues can have a short and long term affect on your child.
Short term effects
When a child’s mental health is deteriorating, it can cause them to withdraw from social interactions, anxiety and be closed off in their bedroom, affecting their self-esteem, mental health, and in some cases their body confidence. If the child has a strong connection with their family, they can reach out to an adult for appropriate support and guidance. Sleeplessness is also a common short-term effect of mental health conditions such as anxiety.
Long term effects
Unfortunately, the effect can even be more devastating when children don’t have a strong connection with their family, and the child or teenager has no educational or emotional support systems to enable them to cope with the situation. Higher screen times on their smartphones and tablets can worsen the issue too. Some long-term consequences can be chronic depression, substance abuse, self-half, and suicidal thoughts/attempts.
How to spot the signs your child’s mental health is deteriorating
So how can you tell if your child is in need of help? Here are three signs to look out for.
1) Their behaviour regresses
Changes could include but are not limited to anxiety, withdrawal from friends and family, closing themselves off in their bedroom, feeling upset and expressing sadness without a clear reason as to why.
Another example would be them being protective over their phone and not wanting people to know what the online activity is. It could be a sign they’re being exposed to explicit material or perhaps a victim of cyberbullying.
2) They stop taking part in activities
It’s common for children with depression or anxiety to find themselves no longer interested in participating in activities they used to enjoy. This usually ties in with no longer seeing people that they used to. Look out for an obsession with being online, detaching themselves with checking their phone, feeling stressed and anxious if they are not able to do so constantly. Choosing screentime over real-life activities is also common.
3) They start isolating themselves
Your child may appear to be isolating themselves within the home, expressing anger, or showing an unexpected decline in their schoolwork. The signs can vary in intensity and quantity from one child to the next, but if there is very little joy in their life, or they are trying to avoid school or their usual social life.
How to approach your child if you think your child’s mental health is declining
If you think your child’s mental health may be declining, here are some suggestions of how to approach them.
Initiate a safe conversation
Initiate a conversation while you are busy doing another activity, such as walking or driving, so the child or teenager doesn’t need to maintain eye contact. Safe conversations mean speaking without any judgment or strong emotions as this can lead them to close up even more.
The message that you want to portray is that your child will not regret sharing their struggle with you. Parents should avoid blaming or shaming, allowing space for the teen or child to talk about what is going on for them and explore together what can be done to resolve the situation.
Get their school involved
If you feel like your child’s mental health issues is affecting their schoolwork, reporting to the child’s school is essential for their mental health to be taken seriously. There is also a need, between parents and schools, to educate children about how to recognise and manage mental health issues.
Eight tools you can use to monitor your child’s online activity to help prevent bullying
It’s no surprise that social media use and online bullying usually goes hand in hand with mental health issues arising in the first place. So it’s important that you keep on top of your child’s screen use.
You can use tools such as blocking apps which filter what content kids can see, and security apps which permit parents to customize the apps to their families. There are many apps you can choose from, some free and some at a subscription cost:
- Netnanny: Netnanny is one of the longest-running monitoring providers and is the #1-Rated Internet Filter.
- KasperSky: Multinational cybersecurity and anti-virus provider.
- Circle Home Plus: Circle Home Plus can monitor devices at the router level on your home network or via an app on your child’s mobile devices.
- Questodio: Family Parental Control App makes parenting easier with daily screen time monitoring, app monitoring, including Facebook and YouTube, app blocking, family locator, family mode, porn blocker and more.
- Bark: Bark monitors texts, email, YouTube, and 30+ apps and social media platforms for signs of issues like cyberbullying, sexual content, online predators, depression, suicidal ideation, threats of violence.
- Boomerang: Boomerang is a parental control app for Android and iOS that helps parents track their children’s web, app, and mobile activity. It’s mobile-only.
- Family Time: Let’s you manage screen time and block apps on their phones with just a tap. Kids can reach out to you instantly if they ever get into trouble with instant panic alerts.
- Google Family Link: You can also monitor and limit screen time, including checking out how much time your child spends on their favourite apps, thanks to weekly or monthly activity reports.
Read more parenting tips
If you’d like more advice on helping raise health and happy children, we recommend reading these articles:
- Three things you can do to help if your child or teenager is suffering from anxiety
- What tweenagers need to know to become URBAN SMART
- How to cope with exam failure – and five ways to deal with exam results stress
- How much screen time is best for your child – and how can you limit their access to devices?
Photo by Bermix Studio