The Australian government’s 2015 report on the Mental Health of Children and Adolescents includes some harrowing statistics. For example, on average, 1 in 7 children between the ages of 4-17 have suffered from a mental disorder in the past year alone. That’s over half a million kids.
Every loving parent hates seeing their children having a bad time. This well-meaning reflex reaction can have negative effects, however, with many of us falling into negative cycles, overprotective parenting, and ultimately unhelpful actions. The love we have for our children can sometimes work against us. If your child is suffering from symptoms of anxiety or depression, here are a few tips that can help your children.
Aim for Management, Not Elimination
When we find our children anxious or showing symptoms of depression, the temptation we go through as parents is to do anything to alleviate their suffering. This usually means removing the factors that trigger things, rather than focusing on the true causes hidden beneath the surface.
Instead of attempting to protect your child from every possible source of anxiety, it’s preferable to help them find ways to tolerate and function in their environments. The happy byproduct of this process is that the anxiety will naturally disappear over time.
Augment Your Knowledge
There’s a limit to how much you can learn from the advice you find online (yes, including what you’re reading now!). If you’re struggling to figure out how you can help your child, or if you’re just seeking to gain a wider knowledge base so you can understand mental health on an in-depth level, it may be worth investing in a course or certificate dealing with the topic. While these courses are primarily designed for those seeking to make counselling or support work a profession, there’s no reason why you can’t sign up simply to build up your awareness.
Help Them to Cope
The trick with this bit of advice is empowerment. You don’t want to be the one who deals with each and every anxiety point, but rather help your child build the tools and skills needed to navigate through life on their own (with the appropriate help when needed). This involves creating a sort of ‘coping kit’ they can turn to when things get rough:
- Breathing exercises to help calm the situation
- Stress balls can often help alleviate symptoms
- Write things out – why are they feeling the way they do?
- Reframe the situation. This builds on from writing things out. Go through the anxiety step by step, break it down, and see if that worry is warranted. Is there a way to turn things into a positive thought?
- Be the boss and talk back to your brain. Help your child take charge, let them know they can ‘talk back’ to the negative thoughts they’re having and refute the claims being made in their heads.
Cover the Basics
In the midst of dealing with anxiety or depression in children, parents can often ignore the basic things that can help alleviate symptoms. We’re talking plenty of sleep, healthy meals full of veggies, time for play outside, and time set aside to enjoy as a family.
These ‘basic’ day-to-day things can go a long way in giving your child a solid framework of support, love, routine, and you’ll also tick all the health boxes as well. You’d be surprised how much these things can help; parents often find that they end up feeling happier themselves!
Don’t Ignore Your Other Children
Siblings of a child who is suffering from anxiety or depression are often ignored. The line of thinking has some logic to it: there’s nothing wrong with them, so the focus should be on the ‘problem child’, right? Not exactly.
Siblings can often feel second best. They may incorrectly conclude that you don’t care as much about them. After all, the attention is going to the sibling with anxiety, not to them. This will often lead to a negative response, such as name calling, teasing, and a general feeling of frustration. Acting out is not uncommon.
We recommend validating your child’s feelings without condoning their negative reactions. Try and set things straight, letting your child know that their sibling is not benefitting due to their anxiety or depression.
Remember, don’t think of yourself as solely responsible or alone when it comes to the care of your child. It’s not all down to you. There are organisations out there that can help, other parents that are dealing with similar issues, and plenty of medical professionals who can guide you to the best option. Keep the love of your child at the forefront of what you do and listen to the experts when you need to.
This article was guest written by Theodora Evans. Theodora is a passionate blogger from Sydney and she is someone you would call an IT nerd. Also, she takes great interest in psychology and helping people deal with their mental and anxiety issues. Besides that, she loves martial arts and enjoying the nature.