Dealing with your child’s scraped knees, coughs, colds, and germs can be a breeze compared to mental health issues.
Fears such as anxiety, depression and eating disorders often creep into families without early signs, and knowing how to help your child can be overwhelming.
As part of The Sun’s Beat The Back To School Bugs series, we’re here to help you and your child start the new school year in the best possible way, both physically and mentally.
From fighting nits to preparing nutritious packed lunches, changing your sleeping habits, to knowing about childhood vaccinations and the threat of Victorian diseases, we’re here to help you and your family.
When it comes to caring for your family’s mental health, know that professional help is available and you and your child are not alone.
What you should pay attention to
Ali Curtis, National CAMHS Nursing Lead for Cygnet health caresays: “The main signs that a young child or adolescent is struggling with their mental health are low mood, anxiety, eating disorders/disorders, body image difficulties and bullying.”
She says there are certain behaviors to pay special attention to.
Ali says: “If your child becomes withdrawn and/or socially isolated, their behavior suddenly changes, they become less interested in their personal hygiene or seem less interested in activities they were previously interested in, these are all signs that your child might struggle with their mental health.
“Expressing concerns about their weight or remaining silent about how much they eat could also be signs of eating disorders.”
HOW TO HAVE A CONVERSATION
Particularly for teenagers, starting a conversation about mental health can seem daunting and be a reason for bedroom doors to slam.
But it’s important to try.
Ali says: “Discussing poor mental health needs to be as normal as discussing physical health concerns. However, this is still a difficult subject for most people to broach.”
“Take a genuine interest in your child’s day, listen and be non-judgmental about any disclosures, even if they are really difficult to understand.
“Young people need a safe space to share concerns, fears and fears without fear of being judged or getting into trouble.”
A few strategies can help everything go more smoothly.
Ali says: “Some parents we work with have used soap storylines or headlines to start a difficult conversation, or TV shows like This Is Us, Normal People or documentaries like Jesy Nelson: Odd One Out ” or “Nadiya: Anxiety and Me”.
“Watching these shows or discussing them together can be a good icebreaker.
“It’s really important for parents to be open and honest and discuss what they’re worried or worried about.”
Listen and make a plan with Your child, not for You can make a real difference.
Ali says: “If possible, give your child a choice in how and when to proceed with getting help.
“Allowing your child to take control of the process can be very helpful.”
I’m looking for professional help
Don’t hesitate to seek additional support if you think your child would benefit from it.
Ali says: “There are some fantastic helplines and websites for informal support – I’m a big supporter of them.” YoungMinds and recommend this to parents and carers.
“Especially since the COVID pandemic, it appears that young people are engaging more online than ever before and that seeking help and support this way may be preferable to using helplines or in person.”
Aside from online help, Ali says the first step for formal support is to see your child’s primary care doctor.
She says: “From here, different recommendations for counseling from psychologists can be made depending on your child’s difficulties.
“If you have any concerns about your child’s immediate safety, please take them to the emergency room.”
HOW TO FIGHT BULLYING
Bullying can be very stressful and difficult to cope with.
Ali says: “Signs may include your child avoiding social environments they previously enjoyed, such as school, clubs and activities, by making up excuses or feigning illness.”
“They could reveal a secret using their phone, laptop and social media [and exhibit] Changes in eating habits, sleep disorders or withdrawal, [and showing] increased anxiety.”
Be proactive in supporting your child.
Try to have a conversation using the tips above that you would also use if you had mental health problems.
Ali adds: “If you are worried your child is being bullied, ask for a meeting with the teacher.
“You can share your worries and concerns, discuss any behavioral changes you have observed, and the teacher may have more information about current peer dynamics.
“From here, the relationships between your child and their peers can be monitored more closely and escalated if necessary.
“Most schools have a pastoral team who can monitor for bullying behavior and provide both emotional and practical advice and support.”
And remember to keep an eye on your own mental health and wellbeing – Spirit has many resources available for you to utilize.