Mental health affects the way we think, feel and behave; that’s why taking care of your mental health is just as important as your physical health. As a parent, you play a crucial role in your child's mental health:
You can promote good mental health by what you do and say, and by the family environment you create.
You can also learn to recognize the early signs of mental health problems and know where to go for help.
How can I ensure the healthy development of my child's mental health?
Children and teens need strong bonds with family and friends. Spend some time together at the dinner table every night.
Someone who is important to your child and whose presence is constant on a daily basis can play a key role in helping them develop resilience. This person, often a parent or other family member, is someone your child spends a lot of time with and knows he can turn to when needed.
Show your child how to deal with any problems that arise.
Help your child or teen develop good self-esteem so that they feel good about themselves:
• Show a lot of love and acceptance.
• Praise him for his good moves. Underline both the efforts invested and the results obtained.
• Ask him questions about his activities and interests.
• Help him set realistic goals.
• Listen to them, and respect their feelings:
It is normal for children and adolescents to be sad or angry. Encourage them to talk about their feelings.
Keep these conversations going by asking questions and listening to your child. Mealtime can be a good time to talk.
Help your child find someone else to talk to if they are not comfortable with you.
Monitor your child’s media use, both content and time spent. This includes television, movies, the Internet, and electronic games (whether they are portable or require a computer or television). Be aware of who they might be interacting with in chat rooms and online games.
Be careful when discussing serious family matters such as finances, marital problems, or illness in your child's presence. Children can tend to worry easily.
Set aside time for physical activity, play, and family activities.
Set an example in taking care of your own sanity - talk about your emotions. Make time for the activities you enjoy.
In difficult situations, help your child or teen to deal with their problems:
Teach him how to relax when he's not feeling well: by taking deep breaths, doing something relaxing (like a quiet activity that he likes), spending some time alone, or going for a walk.
Discuss possible solutions or ideas that could improve the situation, and plan their implementation. Avoid taking care of everything.
In Canada, one in five children or adolescents (20%) has a diagnosable mental disorder. These include Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), anxiety, depression, substance abuse, eating disorders and learning disabilities. . Many other children have milder, but still significant, emotional and behavioral problems.
Mental health disorders can affect young people of all ages and races, regardless of gender, socioeconomic background and culture. However, certain situations can increase the risks, including:
A family history of mental illness;
The difficult economic situation of new immigrants or refugees;
Poorer overall health, isolated community life and limited educational and employment opportunities for indigenous children and adolescents;
Family rejection and bullying of LGBTQ children and youth;
Big changes, such as moving to a new city or school, parental separation or divorce, serious illness or the death of a relative or close friend.
Experiencing or witnessing trauma, such as violence.
The consumption of psychoactive substances.
Unfortunately, too often, help comes too late. A mental disorder can prevent a child or teen from doing well in school, making friends, or becoming independent from their parents. Children and adolescents with a mental disorder may find it difficult to get through certain stages of their development.
The good news is that mental health problems can be treated. There are many approaches to helping a child or teenager with an emotional or mental problem, but getting help early is crucial. Early intervention can prevent a problem from getting worse and lessen its impact on your child's development.
Each person is different. If you think your child might be suffering from such a problem, try to look for a change in the way they think or act, or in their emotional state. Mental health problems can also have physical repercussions. Finally, ask yourself how your child is doing at home, at school, and with friends.
• Changes in thinking
• Said negative things about him, or blamed himself for things beyond his control
• Has difficulty concentrating
• Maintains negative thoughts
• See his school results change
• Affective changes
• Reacts disproportionately to the situation
• Seems very unhappy, worried, guilty, angry, fearful, irritable or sad
• Feels helpless, hopeless, alone or rejected
• Behavior changes
• Often seeks to be alone
• Cries easily
• Lacks interest in or avoids sports, games or activities altogether
• Reacts disproportionately, suddenly gets angry or bursts into tears over minor incidents
• Is calmer than usual, less energetic
• Has difficulty relaxing or sleeping
• Spend a lot of time daydreaming
• Regresses to immature habits
• Has difficulty getting along with friends
Complains of headache, stomach ache, neck pain, or general pain
Lack of energy or is perpetually tired
Has eating or sleeping problems
Has an overload of energy or a nervous tic like biting your nails, playing in your hair or sucking your thumb
Remember: Having one or more of these changes in your child or teen does not necessarily mean they have a mental health problem.
There is more than one way to help your child achieve good mental health. For example, you could share your concerns with your doctor. Talk to your pediatrician:
If the behaviors described above persist, or if they prevent your child from functioning normally;
If you are worried about your child's mental and emotional health;
At each check-up of your child about their behavioral development and emotional health.
If your child or teen talks about suicide or thinks about harming themselves, call your doctor or a mental health helpline right away.
Also with our community we help connect parents who are concerned about their child mental health to other parents who have experienced the same issue to share their experience.
Find out our volunteers that are happy and open for discussion start here.