Have You Checked on Your Children Lately???
Updated: Apr 30
It has been six months since our young people have returned to school, in person. How have your children been doing? Are you checking in with them? Asking them about their emotional and mental health? If you are not, please understand how important it is for you to begin to do so.
Based on current research, our babies are not doing well. From daycare through high school, our children are struggling more than usual. Grief, anxiety, and depression seem to be the silent struggle of many, particularly our young people. I cannot tell you how many of our young people are having a difficult time recognizing their feelings and understanding what it all means, let alone knowing what to do to address them.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention documented that the number of adolescents visiting the emergency room increased by 31% in 2020 compared to 2019. The data further showed that in February and March 2021, the number of suspected suicide attempts increased by 51% among girls aged 12-17 when compared to 2019. To add, more than 140,000 children in the US lost a primary and/or secondary caregiver, with the youth of color disproportionately affected. In a 2020 survey, 71% of parents said the pandemic had done major damage to their child’s mental health; another 69% said this was the worst thing that could have happened to their child. More information on the information shared and the topics such as these can be found on PEW Trusts and American Psychology Association.
This is a national emergency if I’ve ever seen one!
I thought it would be a good idea to just share a short piece, sort of like a heads up, that provides a list of what to look for and some ideas on how to help your young person. Some of the most common mental issues of concern are generalized anxiety (excessive worry about everyday matters), social phobias (severe feelings of self-consciousness and insecurity in social settings), and depression (persistent feelings of sadness, anxiety, and/or emptiness).
Penn Medicine shares some great points:
Generalized anxiety –
Restlessness, wound up, or on edge
Inability to concentrate
Muscle tension/headaches/stomach aches
Difficulty falling asleep/excessive sleeping/not enough sleep
Social anxiety –
Very anxious at the thought of being around others/difficulty talking to others
Extreme experiences of self-consciousness; fear of humiliation, embarrassment, rejection, being judged
Difficulty making friends
Physical discomfort around others (nausea, etc.)
Persistently sad, anxious, feeling empty
Feeling hopeless or overly pessimistic
Constant struggles with guilt, worthlessness, helplessness
Loss of interest in hobbies or regular activities
Fatigue, lack of energy
Moving slowly; restlessness
Struggle with concentration, memory, decision making
Changes in weight and/or appetite
Thoughts of self-harm, death, suicide
Persistent pain/aches that won’t go away when treated
If you see any of these signs in your young person, contact their pediatrician. Typically, your child’s doctor can assess his/her mental health and offer some solutions which may consist of therapy, medication, and/or a psychiatric evaluation from a psychiatrist. My suggestion, regardless of the situation if a pediatrician suggests medication, consider a psychiatric evaluation. The last thing you would want to do is medicate a child who does not either need medication or who can use medication to help them work through their struggles and eventually ween off the medication. Please be mindful of your child’s options.
Basic things you can do at home prior to or during pediatrician’s care:
Identify stressors – this means, pay attention to what is going on around or during the time that you realize your child is struggling. Monitor your young person’s sleep, meal intake, their daily routine – do that have a routine or does it need adjusting, and so on. Then follow up your findings with solutions.
Counseling – this can be a therapist that your child can see in person or virtually, depending on the needs of your child. This can also mean, as previously mentioned, connecting with a psychiatrist who can assist you with medication if necessary. Again, please be mindful of the needs of your child, research, research, research, then decide regarding medication.
Shameless plug here, TC has qualified therapists who will be able to assist you with any questions and/or services that your family may need. As our way to make sure that no one is turned away from getting the help that they need, we offer free and low-cost services to youth and their families who are uninsured or underinsured. Individual, family, and group services are available. If you are interested in finding someone within our organization to assist you, please visit ‘Our Services’ to learn more about how we may be able to help. If you’d like to look outside of our organization, you can always visit Psychology Today.
Listen, mental health is no longer something to hide and definitely not something to ignore. If your child is in pain for more than a day, has a fever, is vomiting, or showing any signs of physical illness, you’d rush your child to their physician. Mental health is no different. In fact, physical and mental health goes hand in hand. One is not going to be okay if the other is not.
Ask your young person how they are doing. Ask them about their emotions, what they are feeling, what they are thinking --- do not overlook possible issues and regret it later.
It takes a village...