Children, like any adult, experience mental health struggles too. And, a child’s mental health is just as crucial as their physical health, specifically when it comes to dealing with stress, behaviour and academics. Regular mental health check-ins are a quick way to assess how children are feeling with everyday life and challenges. As parents or teachers, you may wonder how to check a child’s mental health daily. Let us help you in this journey.
The key role of parents and adults in a child’s life is to ensure a positive environment and have open conversations in the house. This way, children can feel safe and comfortable to share their emotions, friendships, goals, opinions and difficulties without feeling unheard or scared of their parent’s reactions.
It’s crucial for every child to at least have one adult by their side with whom they can share their emotions and struggles and also feel safe with them.
Mental health issues in children: Signs to look for
If your child is exhibiting any of these following symptoms, it’s time to initiate a conversation with them or seek professional help. Check these mental health issues in children!
Children can start withdrawing from social situations or actively avoiding them.
If you notice that your child is constantly trying to distance oneself from family and friends, avoiding previously liked outdoor spots, staying aloof and alone most of the time, it’s advised that you make efforts to speak to them and establish trust by creating a sense of safety and security.
If your child looks overly concerned with worries and feels stressed, lost in thoughts most often, or scared and afraid, it means they are struggling to deal with their feelings.
Extreme irritability or out-of-control behaviour should be an alarm. Your child may show anger all the time or lash out in family interactions frequently. During that time, use a straightforward and calm communication style.
Significant changes in mood or personality can be an important sign. You may find drastic changes in their communicating style. They may be either talking too less or too much. You may also notice changes in sleeping habits or eating habits, and also frequent emotional mood shifts.
Lack of concentration
You may notice drastic changes in their academic performance, or they may have difficulty completing work or get anxious before tests, or be overly worried about grade performance.
If you find that your child is wetting the bed or sucking their thumbs, suffering from frequent stomach aches or headaches, or complaining about several physical ailments, then seek help from a professional.
Also, reach out to a mental health provider immediately, if you notice any destructive or self-harm behaviours in your child. Cutting, scratching, social fights or aggressive outburst, or using drugs, alcohol, over-the-counter medications, etc, are all problem points in a child’s mental health.
Difficulty expressing their feelings or communicating
Your child may start to avoid conversations, or start to cry or feel angry when asked about their feelings. During these tough times, talk to them about their emotions, and encourage them to recognize and label their emotions.
Also read: Is your child aggressive? 9 practical tips to deal with it
10 questions for mental health check-ins with your child
A good way to understand and dig into these behaviour patterns would be to ask specific questions.
1. What has been stressing you out lately?
Give them time to respond to what is bothering them. They may not always answer as they don’t want to feel judged or criticised.
2. What is something exciting that you’re looking forward to?
Most children who are suffering from depression don’t look forward to or are not hopeful about the future.
3. Are you finding academics difficult?
Listen and acknowledge that they may be feeling stressed by the academic demands and the demand to perform well.
4. Do you feel like you have too much to handle?
Help them by sharing examples of how you too feel overwhelmed when you have a lot going on and how you try to manage it. Guide them and give personal strategies and help them come up with solutions too.
5. Who do you miss the most right now?
Many children have lost a family member due to various reasons. It’s okay to talk to them about bereavement and share memories of the deceased.
6. How can I help you?
Don’t take their rudeness or harsh communication at face value. Try to be patient and listen to them when they express that they don’t want to be scolded or judged or lectured. Avoid doing the same and praise them for what they are doing right and give them time and nurturance to change and be more self-aware.
7. Tell me something that you are dreading.
Check on their worries and how they feel. Guide them on how you also worry and manage the same.
8. Have you ever felt so sad or lonely that you wanted to hurt yourself?
Try and check if children have felt the need to harm themselves directly by cutting or injuring themselves or by punching a wall and hitting non-living things. Help them learn emotional regulation through communication. Also, let them know you will listen and try to understand what they are going through without judging them.
9. What do you need right now that you don’t have?
As children, they might communicate what they need for them to overcome some problems or issues that they may be facing. Listen patiently to what they may be asking you so that you can help them too.
10. How are things going with your friends? Do you still get to talk to or see them?
Peer relationships are most important for them. Any change in these friendships is a stress for children. Try to encourage them to overcome these kinds of difficulties with your guidance but without direct solutions. This is because, as parents, you’ll want your children to also find resources to help deal with the problems.
Also, try to create a safe space for them and be their support system so that your children know they have a cushion when they fall and will be lifted by their parents. Remember, you can play a key role in your child’s mental health.