Mental health issues are more common in children than ever. One analysis showed that almost 5 million children have a severe mental illness and 20% will be diagnosed with a mental health issue of some kind. Mental health problems can become even more serious when children are going back to school.
Summer is over, so everyone is returning to their regular schedule, and most importantly, students are starting their new academic year. Every parent has expectations for the new term and the kids too. After a long holiday, shifting to school routines and living up to the parents’ and teachers’ expectations can be a tall order for most students. School may also limit the time children spend with their parents, making adjusting even harder, especially for kids suffering from anxiety disorders. Society is becoming even more concerned about the mental health of teenagers, which is often worsened with the stress of schoolwork, bully, relationship issues and other problems. However, parents can help their children ease into school schedules without strain.
In a typical new year, your child will meet new classmates, teachers, and probably a new environment. Adjusting to such may take time; thus, building resilience and coping strategies are essential. It may be hard to create a relationship where they can open up, especially for teenagers. However, with a little effort, you can create a safe space for your child to open up and talk about their frustrations and things that excite them.
Signs of Mental Illness in Students
Mental illness in students may be disguised as indiscipline or an unruly phase, making it easy to ignore what the child may be going through. Find a psychologist who can really help you understand your child’s mental state. However, common signs can tell you if your child is mentally unwell or dealing with trauma. Some of these signs include.
Several factors, such as bullying and self-doubt, may trigger personality changes. You may find that your child is more withdrawn, aggressive, or defensive. Such changes may go unnoticed if you do not create time to bond with your child. So parents need to spend more time with their kids to note any irregular behavior.
Loss of Care for One’s Well Being
Expectations from parents, teachers, and other school demands may drive a student into emotional turmoil. As the pressure escalates, a student may not find the need to care for themselves. Most students may even find it hard to carry out essential grooming and organization. Such self-neglect is a significant sign of several mental illnesses, including depression and anxiety. Common signs of self-neglect include:
- Poor personal hygiene
- Improper dressing for the weather
- Weight loss
- Isolation from previous activities
- Self-destructive behavior
You can also find some more signs on WebMD specifically about depression in teenagers.
Reduced Need or Lack of Sleep
Dramatic sleep pattern changes are another symptom that parents should not overlook. Getting enough sleep directly impacts one’s mental health. Adequate sleep is especially vital for students since their brains get to relax after long hours of classes and work on assignments. On the other hand, those suffering from dissociative disorder, depression, and anxiety may constantly have insomnia. Therefore, you need to pay more attention to your child’s sleeping pattern to help them get enough sleep and to pick out any irregular patterns that are out of their schedule.
Truancy and Lateness
A student with mental illness may abscond or constantly go to class late. It is easy for teachers and parents to mistake this for unruly behavior. However, the student may be going through depression. Depression lowers individuals’ energy, and they may find it hard to leave the house. An adult going through depression may find it challenging to step out of the house and head to work; this is also a similar occurrence with students. A student going through anxiety may also find it challenging to stay in a place with a large crowd, making going to school their worst nightmare.
How to Help Children’s Mental Health
Parents can nurture their children’s mental wellness by establishing a close relationship with them, teaching healthy habits and modelling positive behavior. Here are some detailed tips parents can use to prevent or contain mental health challenges in their kids.
Check-In on Them Frequently
We can get carried away by our work schedules and parenting routines that we forget to inquire about how our children are doing. So often, we do not go past a good morning since we assume everything is okay as long as we can provide for them. However, children need more than just basic needs; they also need to be listened to. So, it is essential to check in on them randomly, even when dropping them off at school.
Ask them how they are doing in school, about their friends, and if they have any issues compromising their comfort in school. Children may face various issues in school, from bullying to low self-esteem, which may affect their mental health. Therefore, it is best to create a safe space for them to have an outlet for their pent-up emotions. In addition, such honest communication makes them aware that talking to someone about pressing issues is okay.
Develop a Routine
Children work best with routines since it gives them a sense of order. Going back to school affects the schedule they were used to during the holidays. Therefore, as the academic year begins, ensure you develop a new flexible routine that the kids can ease into. Establish a routine incorporating homework time, chores, and time to relax. Such schedules bring consistency and comfort to a child’s life.
Without a schedule, they will be thrown into a state of disarray. Children tend to fear the unknown, and a lack of a routine may make them depressed. Some of the advantages of creating a routine for your child include:
- They learn the importance of time
- It helps manage expectations
- It gives them confidence and independence
- They learn good behavior
- It gives them something to look forward to, mainly if the routine includes some fun activities
The most significant benefit of easing them into a routine is that even amidst the uncertainties of life, there will be something constant for them. Additionally, when you step out, they can continue with their schedule even in your absence.
Instill Healthy Habits
Children learn through observation. Therefore, you need to be cautious with your actions around them. For example, handling stressful situations may also affect how they react if faced with similar circumstances. If you healthily deal with stress, they will emulate that.
Frequently exercising and a healthy diet can help you maintain good mental health. You also need to instill such in your children. You can do several fun activities as a family to ensure the children learn the importance of eating healthy meals or managing their anger. You can take walks as a family to impart the discipline of exercising.
Collaborate With Your Child’s Teacher to Find Solutions
Your child may look okay at home, but they may not be okay in school. Therefore, you need to ask their teacher how they are doing in school and if any behavior is off. You and your child’s teacher have a common goal of making the kid’s learning experience smooth. Working closely with the teacher can help you better understand your child’s character in and out of school. Once you understand your kid’s character, you can help them cope with whatever mental issue they might be going through.
Cooperating with the teacher also allows you to explain to them whether there are challenges at home that may affect their performance in school. Moreover, engaging teachers may result in finding strategies to help the child manage mental issues at home and in school. So as the school starts, ensure you have the teacher’s contacts.
Get them into Therapy
Children can benefit from going to therapy. You can take the right steps to find a good therapist and help them feel safe in therapy. It is a good idea to have a goal for them and ensure they feel comfortable talking to a trusted mental health professional.
It may be difficult to tell what your child is going through. However, through bonding, you can form a healthy relationship which gives them the confidence to overcome challenges they might experience in school. Forming a relationship with them also means paying more attention to their emotions. It helps you understand your kids better and know when they are going through a tough time.