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Focusing on Your Child’s Mental Health

Amber Brandt  |  February 21, 2023
It’s no secret the pandemic has significantly affected the well-being of children and families. In fact, a study conducted by Health Resources and Services Administration found that between 2016 and 2020, the number of children ages 3-17 diagnosed with anxiety grew by 29 percent, and those with depression by 27 percent. Even without the pandemic, many families have experienced changes and losses over the past few years that have taken a physical or emotional toll. You may have even noticed some of these changes within yourself, or a child you love.

Maybe you’ve found yourself wondering if your child’s behavior is just “normal kid stuff” or a symptom of something more. According to Mayo Clinic, here are some common “warning signs” you should look out for:
  • Persistent sadness that lasts two weeks or more
  • Withdrawing from or avoiding social interactions
  • Hurting oneself or talking about it
  • Talking about death or suicide
  • Outbursts or extreme irritability
  • Out-of-control behavior that can be harmful
  • Drastic changes in mood, behavior, or personality
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Loss of weight
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Frequent head or stomach aches
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Changes in academic performance
  • Avoiding or missing school
While no one wants to see their child suffer, paying close attention and then taking productive action is the best way to ensure your child’s safety and well-being. And the good news is there are lots of things you can do to help:
  1. Talk to your child’s pediatrician. The first place to go with your concerns is their medical doctor. Your family pediatrician can help put you in touch with the resources that make the most sense for your family.
  2. Talk to your child’s teacher, school administrators or counselors. Reach out to the educators closest to your child and discuss any concerning behavior you observe home, hear about from school or with friends. Early identification is key.
  3. Check in with close friends, relatives, or other caregivers to see if they’ve noticed changes in your child’s behavior.
Once you begin reaching out for help, the experts in your life will put you in touch with the right resources and help you explore the opportunities available to help your child. If your child receives a diagnosis, here are a few other ways Mayo Clinic recommends to help them cope:
  • Educate yourself
  • Consider family counseling
  • Ask your child’s mental health professional for advice on how you can respond
  • Enroll in parental programs designed to support parents of children facing a mental illness.
  • Look for ways to have fun with and encourage your child
No matter what you do, please don’t struggle through this situation alone, or avoid facing it. Your child needs you to advocate on their behalf. It’s one way you can love and protect them well.