Parents provide their children with basic needs such as food, shelter, clothing, education and health care, among other things. Frequently, however, we forget to check up on another equally important aspect of every person’s life: mental health.
According to data, around 10% of young people aged 5 to 16 years old have a clinical mental health problem. Among the most commonly diagnosed mental disorders in children are anxiety, depression, ADHD, and behavior problems.
The World Health Organization also found that 20% of adolescents experience a mental health problem every year. Unfortunately, around 70% of these cases are left unaddressed and surface in their older years.
Common Risk Factors Of Mental Health Issues In Children
External influences like culture, family, and upbringing are critical during the formative years. Although each child has their temperament and characteristics, they are still like blank slates who mostly rely on the environment. The things they learn in these critical years may be hard to change once children grow older. That’s why good parenting and a healthy environment throughout childhood are essential.
To better understand how a safe environment for your child looks like, first, let’s take a look at the common causes of mental health issues in children:
1. Bullying And Peer Pressure
Bullying comes in many forms – it can be verbal or physical, and it can also be from anywhere – either in school or at home. Most bullying accounts are unreported because it’s either the child is not aware of it, or the bully is threatening the child.
In any case, these can have detrimental effects on the child’s well-being. It can lower their self-esteem, develop trauma over time, constant stress, anxiety, and even depression.
2. Frequent Lifestyle Changes
Children’s comprehension and emotional regulation abilities are generally not as developed as adults. Children could have more difficulty adapting to changes, and it can be harder for them to make sense of.
Some of these changes include moving into a new house, changing their schools, having a new sibling, or even a parent’s divorce. If not appropriately handled, events like these may cause depression, anxiety, or behavioral problems on a child.
While these events are sometimes inevitable, take extra time to talk to your child about their feelings toward the changes and explain the situation in a way they will understand.
3. “Bad” Parenting
Children look up to their parents no matter the case because parents can both provide and deprive the child of their need. Parents affect the children by the rules they implement and how they make them feel.
Bad parenting doesn’t just mean the failure of giving the child’s necessities, but it can also pertain to unhealthy or inconsistent discipline styles.
An extreme authoritarian parenting style can make your child feel unheard and that their feelings are unconsidered if the rules should solely be up to you. A permissive parenting style wherein you set rules that you barely follow can also be confusing and detrimental to the child.
For example, they may not learn at all, or they could feel entitled and spoiled. And worse, an uninvolved parent who doesn’t spend time asking or bond with their child can also create issues with the child’s social and self-esteem aspects.
It is recommended that parents keep an authoritative kind of parenting style. It is the middle-ground that balances between strict enforcement of rules and keeping the caring side of parenting.
With an authoritarian parenting style, parents take the time to create and maintain positive relationships with their children by getting to know them and letting them talk about their feelings.
You also have rules, but you explain the reasons behind them, rather than just saying “because I said so.” In this way, you create a loving, friendly, and guiding relationship with your child with a foundation on respect and love.
Why Is It Important To Take Care Of Our Children’s Mental Health
When mental health issues in children are left unaddressed, it can resurface in other forms, such as appearing as a “difficult child.” Some children may turn their frustrations onto anger, aggression, and violence.
For example, a child who experienced bullying can also be a bully and pass on the aggressiveness to others. It can mean revenge for what others did to them or simply because they think it is the “cool” thing to do.
Meanwhile, a neglected child or a child who experienced a lot of pressure may turn to desperate ways to get what they want. They might fear their parents’ disapproval more rather than the implications of their means.
Therefore, a problematic child may or may not be because he is hard to deal with, but maybe because there are underlying reasons or events in the past that influenced his/her behaviors. The earlier the intervention, the better.
What Can You Do?
Children may be younger than us, but we must treat them with equal respect by considering their feelings and gently talking to them with utmost love and understanding. Be a wise friend to them, not a dictator ruler; be reasonable and explain to them why there are rules, and ask their opinions about them.
Remember, being a strict parent does not always mean fitting for your child. Your child will grow a better person in a loving and healthy environment.
However, if you are having trouble with parenting, seek professional help as early as you can. A child psychologist or a guidance counselor will help you arrange a plan to assess what are the reasons behind your child’s behavior and what are the suitable therapy plans.