The month of May has been the world mental health month. What comes to mind when people hear of mental health is often the words ‘crazy’, ‘mad’, bewitched or insane.
According to the WHO (World Health Organisation), mental health is:
basically a state of well-being in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.
As parents we try to raise our children to be happy, healthy individuals. And no matter how hard we try children too can suffer from mental health conditions. This does not mean they were born abnormal, are bewitched or you are a bad parent. It means we should educate ourselves, reduce risk factors where possible and support our kids. Parents should talk about mental health as seriously as they talk of physical health. An important trait to encourage in children is resilience, which is being able to bounce back to good health again. So parents, I’ll go ahead and highlight mental health issues and what you can do to overcome them.
It’s natural for a child to worry because the ‘world’ can be a scary place sometimes. But when the worries begin to pile up and affect your child’s well being, it can quickly evolve to anxiety . For a child this feeling of fear and panic can be very confuding and overwhelming. Parents need to look for signs of anxiety in their children that happens all the time with no good reason.
Talking to a child is therapeutic as it helps you help the child resolve thier feelings as you also get involved
Behavioural problems can be many. They include anger management, bullying and conduct disorder. if your child is always the one causing chaos at home, school or in any gathering, and you deem it unusual, then you must seek help from a counsellor or professional psychologist.
Death and loss is difficult , no matter the age. Adults try to act normal and grieve in private but what about kids? Imagine the loss of a mum or dad, a sibling, their best friend or a pet? To a kid, death presents a new experience that they may not quite comprehend. They too have disturbing emotions , moments of silence, anger issues and lots of unanswered questions. During times of grieving, it’s important to keep communication open so they can approach you with their feelings and get support.
This is Africa and sometimes parents assume that bullying is a ‘rite of passage’. I mean the child should harden up especially for teenagers. Ironically, half of the children in schools are affected by bullying either as the victim or the bully. talking to a child about bullying can help them feel comfortable talking about it. It’s also okay to approach the school for further intervention.
Depression is estimated to affect 1 in 4 kids before they turn 19. (I know it sounds foreign but yeah…) Many features of depression are similar to feeling sad but if your child keeps feeling sad and withdrawn for long periods then they need help. A child may show physical symptoms that may at first seem unrelated. For example, they say they feel sick, have tummy aches or complain of headaches more often. Talk to your child instead of talking at them. It’s important to know that medication is rarely offered to kids unless advised by a qualified doctor.
While eating disorders typically develop during adolescence, the problem can begin as early as 6 years. i remember a cousin of mine who hardly ate as a child to avoid being told she will have chubby cheeks like mine. The feeding problem persisted to her late teenage years and greatly affected her health. The girl child is more susceptible to developing this disorder which can cause health and esteem issues later in life. If you are concerned about your child’s eating habit, speak to a doctor at first, and they can recommend a specialist. As a parent, work on building positive vibe on their looks and developing eating habits without comparing them to others.
A child with learning difficulties has problems developing their knowledge and skills to match that of their peers. Some common learning abilities you may have come across include dyslexia,and ADD (Attention Deficit and Hyper activity Disorder). Having a good support from family , teachers and doctors helps children with learning disabilities flourish. Also look for groups (there are some available on Facebook) where you can talk and find necessary support.
Self harm is when a child exhibits a strong desire to hurt themselves on purpose. The symptoms include cutting with sharp objects on their body parts, scratching till they bleed or hair pulling. It can be extremely distressing to know your child is self harming. usually, it is a coping mechanism to help them deal with difficult emotions like death or rejection. For these kids, showing your support and not being judgemental is key.
It’s normal for children to feel a sense of anxiety when they are separated from their parents especially for kids between 6 months – 3 years , and they tend to grow out of it. Beware of the anxiety if they don’t seem to relax over time. Sometimes all the crying and yelling can help communicate an abusive situation at home or mistreatment by the housegirl. Never ignore these signs as amother and see what adjustment s you can make.