April 26-30th is Every Kid Healthy Week!
“Each day of the week shines a spotlight on the great actions schools and families are taking to improve the health and wellness of their kids and the link between nutrition, physical activity, mental health, and learning – because healthy kids are better prepared to learn and thrive!”
Today is Mindful Monday, a chance to discuss children’s social and emotional health.
Talking to kids about mental health
Research suggests that emotional intelligence is linked to improved mental health, greater success in school, better relationships, self-awareness, and resilience. Children can develop and strengthen their emotional intelligence through open communication.
The first step to addressing emotional health is having an open, honest, and calm conversation with your child about things they may be struggling with. How you approach the topic will make all the difference in how they receive the message and open up to you.
Check in on a daily or weekly basis, and without being too intrusive, ask questions that spur conversation. Instead of the typical “how was your day,” a good exercise to try is discussing their “peak” and “pit.” This essentially opens the door for them to talk about the best and worst parts of their day, helping you naturally transition into asking if they want to talk about it.
The three R’s
Even if an issue seems minor, it’s probably a big deal to them. We all cope with emotions based on experience, so to young children, the smallest things can seem like the end of the world.
When having these conversations with your children, try to remember the R’s: relate, reassure, remedy.
Kids tend to model their parent’s behavior, so acknowledging your own feelings can show them it’s okay to talk about theirs. “When I was in school, I remember feeling ____ when ____ happened.” Using your own experiences to relate to kids can be really impactful. Talking about specific instances, like a time you were bullied at recess or felt anxious in math class, can be good way to get them to open up about what they’re experiencing.
Once your child opens up about their struggles, it’s important to validate their feelings and reassure them that they can always come to you, and you will help. Every kid copes with emotions in their own way, but sometimes the healing powers of a nice, big hug from mom or dad can do wonders. Letting them know it’s okay to feel what they’re feeling and that you take their emotions seriously will help establish a good connection where they will feel safe to come to you with their problems.
Not every problem calls for an immediate solution. Sometimes the situation can be fixed by simply listening and letting them get it out. However, if your child seems to be dealing with the same issues on a daily basis, or if it’s interfering with their life, it may be time to take action. A good place to start to remedy the situation is meeting with their teachers to gain more insight into their patterns and behavior at school. Additionally, seeing a children’s counselor can also be helpful in getting to the root of the problem. Not only can a counselor’s office serve as a pressure-free zone for children to express themselves and learn coping mechanisms, but any underlining mood disorders or conditions can be addressed and helped if needed.
According to the CDC, ADHD, behavior problems, anxiety, and depression are the most commonly diagnosed mental disorders in children.
- 9.4% of children aged 2-17 years (approximately 6.1 million) have received an ADHD diagnosis.2 Read more information on ADHD here.
- 7.4% of children aged 3-17 years (approximately 4.5 million) have a diagnosed behavior problem.3
- 7.1% of children aged 3-17 years (approximately 4.4 million) have diagnosed anxiety.3
- 3.2% of children aged 3-17 years (approximately 1.9 million) have diagnosed depression. 3
Because these conditions are so prevalent, it’s important for parents to frequently touch base with their kids and stay informed on what’s going on in their life.
You know your child best, so if things seem off, they probably are. There are certain signs of mental health conditions that may present themselves if your child is struggling.
Warning signs to watch for in children include:
- Acting out
- Headaches or body aches
- Withdrawing from activities and friends
- Grades slipping
- Changes in eating
- Poor sleep patterns
- Lack of concentration
Seek help immediately if you think your child could harm themselves or others.
We encourage all parents to use Every Kid Healthy Week as a chance to check in with their children and address any social or emotional struggles they may be having.