Experiences are like bricks that lay the foundation of children’s mental health. If the bricks are weak, they will never sustain the pressure and weight. Thus, the building is at risk of collapsing. Just like that, traumatic childhood experiences destabilize the foundation of children’s mental health, leading to serious problems later in life.
How Do Stress-Inducing Events Affect Children’s Mental Health?
Genes and toxic stress are the main reasons behind poor mental health in children. Our genetic makeup is not in our control, as genes contain set instructions that tell our bodies how to work. However, external factors can affect the chemical signature, preventing our bodies from acting as they should.
There’s a common misconception that children can’t have mental health issues because they aren’t fully developed and probably not affected by such external circumstances. However, that’s not the case. Neglecting children’s mental health can create an emotional burden that affects their development and causes obstacles in their later lives.
Toxic Stressors, Environments, and Circumstances that Affect Children’s Mental Health
As a parent or guardian, your child’s emotional, mental, and physical wellbeing should be important to you. You must resolve any issues or find ways to protect them from toxic external circumstances. Here’s a list of things that may induce stress in children:
- Unstable or inconsistent living conditions
- Physical, sexual, or violent and consistent verbal abuse
- Separation or divorce of parents
- Parents’ incarceration
- Death of a loved one
- Parental psychological disorders or substance abuse
- Experiencing racial, sexual, gender, or religious discrimination
- Chronic neglect
- Domestic violence
How Will I Know If My Child Has Mental Health Problems?
It’s important to note that it’s never too late to take action. If you are worried about your child’s wellbeing but aren’t sure if there’s a mental health problem, take a look at these signs and symptoms:
- They become irrational or sad or may quit doing what they were passionate about before. Mental health disorders such as anxiety and bipolar disorder can cause swift mood changes in children, instantly going from happy to sad.
- They may get worried or frightened quickly. For example, they may get nervous or scared when meeting strangers.
- They have developed dangerous, out-of-control behavior. For instance, they may express their intentions to harm others or themselves.
- Children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression, or other mood disorders may find it hard to concentrate at school, negatively affecting their performance.
- A sudden change in diet. This may be caused by eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia. They may eat less or overeat, frequently vomit, or express anxiety about food and eating.
- Substance abuse. This is dangerous because kids might misuse substances to cope with their difficult emotions.
- Some children may be losing touch with reality (psychosis). Psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia can cause this in teens and young adults.
- They may have difficulty engaging with people or have issues communicating with their peers.
- If your child complains of physical symptoms such as stomach aches or headaches, that could be a sign of anxiety or a mood disorder.
Effective Ways to Treat Children’s Mental Health Problems
Once you identify symptoms or signs of a potential problem in your child, you should take immediate action. Here are a few ways you can do that:
1. Neurofeedback/Biofeedback Therapy
People frequently ask: does neurofeedback work for kids? The answer is yes! Children with ADHD or other mental health disorders can benefit from neurofeedback if they aren’t responding to medications. Neurofeedback is an effective brain training method that improves the brain’s ability to function well and helps form new neuronal connections.
These brain training sessions will help switch on their brains, activate brain cells, and fix their neurochemical makeup. Much evidence shows that neurofeedback helps alleviate depression, anxiety, and ADHD in children.
2. Family Treatment And Therapy
Children desire love, attention, and care from their families above all else. It’s essential to address trauma-related issues and all other mental health problems. Family therapy and treatment ensure that children and other family members have a stable, non-toxic household to live in. Besides healing the child, it also benefits other family members who suffer silently.
This is the best form of treatment for developmental trauma! It can help both the guardian and child to communicate and process their feelings. This, in turn, helps strengthen family bonds, improve family dynamics and parenting skills, and enhance communication about difficult circumstances. Here are a few programs and forms of therapy for the treatment of developmental trauma:
- Parent and child therapy
- Family therapy
- Positive parenting programs
- Alternatives of families, a cognitive behavioral therapy
- Child-parent psychotherapy
- Parent-child interaction therapy
- Screening of parent or guardian’s mental health (to take into account any substance abuse and untreated mental health disorders).
3. Individual Behavioral Therapy
If the family members have a clear record and pass the screening test, the child should get individual therapy or help. This doesn’t mean the family is uninvolved.
One way of treating developmental trauma is by addressing the problem areas where the trauma stems from, helping young patients navigate through the pain, and resolving their difficulty in responding and freely expressing themselves. The objective of the therapy is to help children develop skills, ensure safety, enhance resilience, and improve social integration.
The list below shows the type of therapies available to children:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy
- Trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy
- Dialectical behavioral therapy
- Play therapy
With therapy and psychological treatment, medications can help relieve stress and strengthen the neural connection in traumatized children. Medication can also help regulate behavior and effectively treat disorders such as depression, anxiety, and ADHD. It’s essential to strictly follow the doctor’s prescription and not rely on the internet for information on the most commonly prescribed drugs because mental health disorders affect everyone differently.
5. Balanced Diet And Exercise
Sometimes deficiency of vitamins or other minerals can mess up the brain’s chemical makeup. That’s why you must ensure that your child has a healthy diet rich in nutrients. Also, regular exercise causes the body to release mood-uplifting hormones such as dopamine to make your child feel better. Encourage children to play outdoors as sunlight is essential for their development.
6. Making Adjustments
If your child is diagnosed with a mental health disorder, it’s better to adjust your life and provide the necessary accommodations at home and school. For instance, if your child has ADHD, keep a diary with him or her and set constant reminders for homework. This will remove obstacles in the path to success while recovering.
Children’s minds are like an empty slate, and they absorb whatever you write on it. It’s better to offer them support and all the best mental health resources because ignoring their cries for help will do more harm than good.
If you or someone you know experiences mental health issues, it is important to seek help from a qualified professional. Our Resource Specialist can help you find expert mental health resources to recover in your community. Contact us now for more information on this free service to our users.
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