How to Help Your Child’s Mental Health

How to Help Your Child’s Mental Health

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Young teens and children aren’t spared from the current mental health crisis that was triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic. Research studies have discovered alarmingly the high prevalence of anxiety and depression in our younger generation. It’s getting harder to find therapists that have open positions. In this regard, parents, as well as other caregivers play a crucial duty to protect your children’s health. 

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Parents may be reluctant to be involved in attending to their children’s mental health, despite intending to blur the roles of therapist and parent. However, caregivers play an important impact in their children’s well-being which includes their mental and emotional well-being. Even when a child is in therapy with a professional the therapist is usually only once per week for a few hours or less. Parents can play an important role in maintaining the therapy that was started with therapy.

 

The parental role in their children’s mental health was of particular importance to me after my daughter was afflicted with a two-year episode of extreme anxiety and fear, which was sudden when she was enrolled in second grade. My heart broke as she went through school each day, often in tears, and sometimes begging us to allow her to go in her home. Despite all the training I had received I was powerless to end her suffering.

 

Ada was able to greatly benefit from weekly sessions with an excellent therapy therapist, and her teachers and school counselors were extremely supportive and helpful. I was initially hesitant to provide her with the cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) techniques I employ in my work although I specialize in clinically-tested treatment for anxiety. I wanted to not interfere with the work she did with her therapist, nor for Ada to feel pressured to apply the methods I can help her overcome her anxieties. 

However, I realized that as parents, we are able to draw upon everything we own — including our professional experience to assist our children. Then she informed me that the time we spent together was extremely beneficial and that’s about the best thing parents can hear. I was happy that Ada was able to hug me immediately after she had spoken, as I would not have been in a position to talk in my tears.

 

I prefer keeping things simple in my clinical practice, whether I’m working with children or adults and I’ve distilled the fundamental CBT principles as Think, Act Be. Numerous research studies have proven that these techniques are able to help patients of all ages calm anxiety and stress, manage challenging emotions, and take actions that improve their lives. 

THINK

The Think strategies stem from the cognitive component of CBT. They help us develop effective ways of thinking. We don’t always know that our brains have been telling stories to us. Some of them are true to the facts such as “The sky’s blue.” But some may not be. For instance, believing you are “dumb” or the notion that “no one loves you” isn’t proof that it’s true.

 

The ability to identify the possibility of stories in our thoughts that may be or aren’t real is a valuable technique for letting go of destructive ways of thinking. There is no need to fight with ourselves to get rid of our ideas. Simply acknowledging that we’re having thoughts that may be false, could cause the thoughts to become less powerful.

 

Do some practice sharing with your child your thoughts and Feelings

Our emotions are often triggered by our thoughts. Thinking about things such as “I’m not good enough at this” can cause us to feel depressed; while thoughts such as “My friend really loves me” can bring us joy. If you’re feeling down today, take a moment to consider: “What did I just think?” Notice if the emotion is related to the thought.

 

ACT

The tools in Act are derived from the behavioral component of CBT. They help us make choices that will improve our lives. Parents, as parents are able to teach our children about the ways that their behavior impacts their emotional and mental health. We can observe that eating a lot of junk food can make them feel dull for instance while going out is a great way to boost their spirits. It is also a good idea to encourage our children to learn to maintain regular self-care habits and to consider themselves to be someone worthy of taking care of. It’s usually best to keep our guiding light brief, perhaps mentioning how we use our own advice, to avoid activating the “my-parents-are-just-being-annoying” reflex.

 

Learn to share with your child Take care of yourself

What’s one thing you can do for yourself this day? You could choose anything like eating one of your favorite food items, reading a book you like, or wearing your favorite outfit. If you’re struggling to come up with ideas, consider the things that could make this the most memorable day. You can ask a trusted adult for assistance should you require it.

 

BE

Bepractices are a result of the mindfulness aspect of CBT. They can aid us in relaxing in the present by letting away concerns about the future as well as regrets from the past. Mindfulness doesn’t mean just doing silent meditation, you can accomplish anything that requires mindful awareness. Being mindful means that our focus is on what’s happening and that we are open to the things that are happening, by saying “yes” to the experiences instead of trying to ignore them. It’s possible to be free of the perpetual battle to make things turn around the way we would like to, and instead go with an experience that’s taking place. When we accept more of our experiences We find more comfort and peace.

 

Use this practice to teach your child: Three-Part Breathing

Relax in a comfortable position while closing your eyes. After your first breath takes a step up higher and raises your head up. Then exhale slowly. After your second breath takes note of the air that is entering your nostrils. Take a deep breath and exhale to repeat the exhalation. When you take your third breath you can feel your belly ballooning into a balloon, and then slowly exhale. Repeat these three breaths several times. Notice how you feel when you’re done.

 

Ada was so excited about the value of these types of techniques during her struggle with anxiety that she decided to share them with other people. Recently, she and I collaborated in making a deck of cards to use every day, known as”the CBT deck for Teens and Children (from where the techniques mentioned above are taken). It’s inspiring to see her use her personal struggles to assist others who are experiencing similar issues. 

To increase your effectiveness, you can practice this skill with children as the example we set will have a greater impact than the words we use. Spend five minutes in peaceful meditation, for instance, or enjoy time outside engaging in an activity that you both like. If we provide our children with the most effective tools for ensuring their well-being, we’ll benefit from easy ways to protect our hearts and minds. Together, we’ll build resilience skills that last for a lifetime.

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