Children’s brain is growing very rapidly during their first years of life and it is a critical time for brain development. By the teen years, the brain is fully formed and can be hardwired for mental health disorders such as anxiety, ADHD, autism spectrum disorder, depression and other mood disorders, eating disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Children with mental disorders require effective interventions to force them to live up to their personal potential and improve the way they function in society. Many parents find it daunting to discover that their child may be suffering from a mental disability. Mental illness in children is quite common and is one of the leading causes of hospitalization among children aged 1-17 years and adolescents aged 14-17 years.
Acknowledging the early signs of mental health problems and seeking treatment for children are an important part of their healthy development. Knowing the signs and symptoms of childhood mental disorders can help you get your child or adolescent the help they need.
What can affect children and adolescent mental health?
Some children and adolescent are more likely than others to develop mental health problems. For example, they may have experienced events that have affected their mental health. Also, things such as moving house or starting school can trigger mental health problems in some children and adolescent. In older teens, a certain amount of emotional turmoil is normal, but some young people feel overwhelmed by these changes and this can put their mental health at risk.
Some risk factors that might make some children and adolescent more likely to experience mental health problems than others include:
- having a long-term physical illness
- a parent who has had mental health issues, problems with alcohol or has been in worry with the law
- the death of someone close to them or the death of a close relative or friend
- parents who separate or divorce
- experiencing drastic bullying or physical or sexual abuse
- poverty or homelessness
- experiencing discrimination
- caring for a relative, taking on adult responsibilities
- Having long-lasting difficulties at school.
Things that can help keep child and adolescent mentally well:
Knowing how to help your child stay mentally well and enjoy their childhood is important. Your child’s emotional wellbeing is really important. By developing good mental health it allows children and adolescent to cope with whatever life throws at them, grow into well-rounded, healthy adults and be ready to face the future. Things that can help with good mental health are:
- Being in good physical health helps your child’s body and mind work at their best. Eating a balanced diet and getting regular exercise have positive effects on children’s physical health, like improving strength and endurance, and reducing the risk of diseases.
- We all know how important play is at every stage of life, but as children and adolescents grow up they often have less time and fewer places to play. Allowing more time and freedom to play, indoors and outdoors, can greatly improve their mental health.
- For children, family life can be their first experience of friendship and relationships. Families that get along well most of the time help children learn to get along well with others, in and out of their family. This helps build mental wellbeing, which can influence how children do as they grow up.
- Schools with strong pupil support teams can do a lot to help support children’s mental health. One of the main ways they do this is by helping them cope with stressful events and avoid the negative mental health outcomes that can come from experiencing those events.
- Taking part in local activities provides children’s with a sense of identity and a way to connect with others. It can also help them feel more connected to their community and reduce the chances of them being lonely or just hanging about.
It’s never too late, but earlier is always better.
There is no such thing as too late when it comes to a child’s mental health. By the time a child reaches three years old there are no critical periods for brain development, therefore, a child’s brain can continue to fully develop. Before the age of 3 children can grow at optimal rates and many turn out to be successful adults. However, if a child is abused or neglected early on, the effects of this can last throughout the child’s life and endanger their learning abilities and social integration.
Children who have been exposed to early and persistent adversity are likely to require special educational, psychological, and social care throughout their lives. When you intervene at an early stage of childhood development, the benefits can last a lifetime; but when intervention is delayed, recovery may be limited. Children who overcome this adversity can get educational and professional support that will aid in their future development.
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