Managing your child's mental health
Updated: Jul 2, 2020
The COVID-19 outbreak has affected mental health varyingly on a global scale.
It has unsurprisingly raised feelings of anxiousness among the world’s population. But how is it impacting your child?
Noticing the signs
It can be hard to pinpoint when exactly a mental illness starts. With social media at it’s all-time high and constant alerts regarding COVID-19, there can be a number of factors right now impacting your child's view of the world. That's why it's important to know what to look out for.
Difficulty controlling emotions
Unusual sleep patterns
Avoiding friends, family and social relationships
Disinterest in things that usually bring them joy
Excessive feelings of guilt, sadness or hopelessness
Drastic changes in behaviours or eating habits.
Have the conversation
It can be extremely difficult to start the conversation surrounding mental illness with your child.
Ensuring that the conversation is occurring at a safe and comfortable time (such as dinnertime, bedtime or driving to training) is a great first step to easing the tension.
Another way to comfort your child is to acknowledge, validate and respect their feelings.
By showing them you understand and accept their feelings they are more likely to open up to you.
Whilst it might feel uncomfortable, it's important to confront the difficult topics while keeping a calm and even tone.
Try to model positive emotional sharing in day-to-day life. Encourage your children to share with you by sharing your experiences.
For younger children, it might be easier to have a chart of emotions that they can point to as they might not have the words to articulate their feelings yet.
For older children and adolescents, it might be beneficial to explore how you handle your own mental health (yoga, exercise, meditation, medication etc.).
Prompt your child by asking open-ended questions such as, “What would you like me to know about you?”
Also, ensure there are no distractions such as phones, TVs or tablets - this will allow your child to feel more heard and that there is value to what they are sharing.
Offer resources to your child
If you're unsure about what resources would be most appropriate for your child, consult a Doctor or a Child Psychologist on what resources they think are necessary.
It is also important to acknowledge your child’s boundaries and autonomy.
If your child is old enough, suggest seeing a doctor or therapist on their own. If they seem uncomfortable suggest seeing one together.
There are also a wealth of books, brochures and sites available to help. Try to find one at your child’s level of comprehension and offer to read it with them if they need support.
Reinforce your support
It can be hard for your child to adjust to seeing a therapist or doctor about their mental health.
One of the best ways to show your support is to try to keep a routine as much as possible.
Focusing on your child’s strengths and interests lets them keep a sense of normality.
Respect their privacy and trust that they will come to you if they need further information or help.
It's vital that you remind yourself it’s not your fault and you did not fail as a parent.
Ensuring your mental health is just as important as your child's for a healthy and supportive family.
If you have immediate concerns for yours or somebody else’s safety please call 000 (emergency services) or Lifeline at 13 11 14.
The world is better with you in it.
If you would like more information on how to identify and manage your child/ren's mental health issues, have a read of our "Managing your Child's Mental Health" Module available below.