The behaviour of children can sometimes look odd and mysterious. It is hard to understand mood swings, emotional breakdowns, tantrums, hyper activity or solitary behaviour. All these are part of a child’s mental health, which parents often overlook.
For child psychology experts, the capacity to achieve and maintain optimal psychological functioning and wellbeing is referred to as a healthy state of mental health. “How can such health be maintained?” and “What determines mental or behavioural disorders?” are some of the questions often asked by parents.
Like physical health, a child also needs a sound mental atmosphere to stay fit in life. Children who are mentally healthy live a good life and can function well at home, in school, and in their communities. It is only by virtue of good mental health that children can develop the resilience to cope with whatever life throws at them.
On the other hand, in a disturbing and unhealthy home atmosphere, a child is prone to develop mental disorders, especially in a disturbed or violent environment at home, school, or in the society in general. Mental health problems affect 1 in 10 children and young people. These mental health issues cause serious changes in the way children learn, behave or handle their emotions. Many children have fears and worries and may feel hopeless and dejected from time to time. Having been mentally disturbed, children become susceptible to disruptive behaviours and often sink into thoughts. They may develop extreme forms of fear and sadness which may culminate into anxiety or even depression. These issues, if unaddressed, have the potential to cause personality disorders in children.
Being occasionally sad is part of every child’s life but what should bell an alarm is if such moods are frequent. To identify whether a child has a sound or disturbed mental system is not easy. One needs to read the behaviour of children very closely, in order to deduce the situation and then, if need be, seek mental health assistance.
Some common traits shown by a child who may be struggling mentally are: being unusually unhappy and irritable, saying negative things about themselves, excessive daydreaming, etc. Such behaviour should be monitored carefully by parents. In addition to this, parents have to ensure that children are not exposed to factors that affect their mental health. Domestic violence is the greatest cause of mental health issues in children. Children who witness domestic violence or are victims of abuse themselves are more vulnerable. They are also at a greater risk of being violent in their future relationships, thereby continuing the cycle of trauma.
Another factor that affects a child’s mental health is negligence. Neglecting a child may have negative effects. Children who are neglected can struggle with issues of low self-esteem which could later lead to high-risk behaviours. Additionally, a child is very tempted to be a part of social life and learns many virtues and vices from it. So, the nature of society in which a child lives leaves a mark on the psyche. A child who grows up in a society that is marred by political violence or inequalities can develop serious mental health issues, especially if they’re at the receiving end of it. PTSD is an unfortunate condition that a child develops under these circumstances.
Yet another factor that has affected children is over-reliance on technology. Although technology has added comfort and innovation in our lives, but mishandling it will bring somewhat undesirable results. Violent online games like PUBG have had a catastrophic impact on children’s mental health. Unhealthy use of social media and pornographic content will also seriously affect their social skills and their ideas of healthy relationships.
Many of our children might already have shown many of these behavioural patterns. However, the good news is that mental disorders of children are treatable. Some promising ways include a healthy parenting process. Parenting must prepare a child for independence. For very young children, involving parents in treatment is the key. According to the “Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology”, the best medicine to treat disruptive behavioural problems in children is “parent behaviour therapy”.
Additionally, children need care and appreciation. This will make them feel loved, trusted, understood, valued and safe.
Yet another factor to control is the content that kids consume. Give them access to safe content only. Be aware about your child’s media use. This must include monitoring content as well as the screen time. One must also keep keen watch on who they might be interacting with on social media and online games.
Now, more than ever, because of prolonged lockdowns and conflict, children need our time and attention. Our concern during the pandemic must also be mental health. Children by virtue of being inexperienced need to be constantly guided. This makes it extremely important to have an “all hands on desk” approach as far as their mental health is concerned.
The writer hails from Drabgam Pulwama. [email protected]