Early Signs Of Mental Health Disorders: In Children
Teenage is the most wonderful and profound time of the overall development of a child. It is a period of growth where Children develop deeper emotional experiences, impressions, skills, habits, beliefs, biases, personal identity, and mindsets that prepare them for a successful and fulfilling life.
In the current times with increased digital exposure, distractions, social media influence, expectations, and competition- teenagers are under increasing growth expectations, competition stress, and life-threatening challenges.
Alarming rates of mental health concerns in teenagers makes it important for us, their support system, to be aware of early signs of mental health issues. Most mental health problems emerge in adolescence and may not even become mental health problems if we respond to them early.
MOOD SWINGS OR WARNING SIGNS?
Firstly, Parents need to educate themselves to understand what’s happening in their child’s life and understand signs and reasons that are adversely impacting their well-being:
The behaviours exhibited by teenagers are often written off as a ‘childish thing’ or ‘puberty thing’ but they can be a sign of something more.
For example, mood swings can also be an effect of a family issue or personal trauma. Anger outbursts may seem ‘immature’ behaviour, but they can also be a manifestation of repressed emotions or helplessness. It is important to know the observable signs of mental health concerns in teens and explore ways to guide them through it.
A telltale way to understand if a teen might be experiencing an emotional concern is to recognize a prominent change in their behaviour, if they were very participative and social earlier but are now quiet and withdrawn. Alternatively, obvious extreme behaviours, such as aggression, isolation, crying too much, sleeping too little or too much, and drop in academic performance may also be helpful indicators.
CHANGE MANAGEMENT = STRESS MANAGEMENT
Competitive Exam stress is a reality of every teen’s life. When students sign up for any competitive exam such as engineering and medical entrance exams, it’s a big change in their life that requires a massive adjustment in their daily schedule (time discipline, focus, and concentration) and much higher capabilities (energy, motivation, mental toughness, wellbeing, and family support) to adjust and delivery at the pace required to compete with best of the minds at a National level.
They undergo huge mental pressure, challenges, and setbacks. Strong mental strength is much needed to sustain and perform during this journey.
GOOD STRESS VERSUS BAD STRESS
According to various research, an optimal amount of stress is good to keep the student alert, but if it exceeds beyond and overstays, it harms performance and long-term health. There is even a big rise in the number of students taking extreme (self-harm, substance abuse) steps. And this must stop. While most students and parents realize this, they keep ignoring it. This is major because they don’t have the proper knowledge or any credible, easy-to-access professional solution.
WHAT PARENTS MUST DO TO ENSURE WELLBEING OF THEIR TEENS:
BUILD A NATURAL BOND AND RAPPORT:
- Develop an environment of daily communication
- Know your Child beyond their academics and food habits. One Question that I daily ask to my kids is “tell me how your day was, everything” and take full interest in their little things they want to share with excitement
- Sincerely Listen to them. It’s difficult but the most important responsibility of a parent is to build a bond with their child.
- Don’t ignore or reject your child’s idea or suggestion “bachha samajh kar”
2. WORK TO BUILD THE DAILY HABITS & SKILLS THAT WOULD HELP THEM:
- – Teenagers perform a number of demanding tasks daily hence they need the skills and energy beyond just academic aptitude. Lack of these skills is one of the major reasons that create stress and anxiety in their lives
- – Work with them to develop good habits that will help them in their day-to-day tasks:
o Sleep & Study routine
o Food & Nutrition
o Exercise – Physical & Breathing/Mindfulness
o Family & fun time
- – Power them with strategic skills that will help them to deliver on their dream goals/competition:
o Time management, Focus
o Intrinsic Motivation & Optimism
o Self-esteem & confidence
o Mental Toughness, Grit, Resilience
o Emotional wellbeing
3. NURTURING MENTAL HEALTH, WELLBEING & SAFETY:
- Don’t ignore any early sign you notice impacting their mental health and seek and expert’s help immediately
- Acknowledge and Nurture child’s overall emotions
- Understand and support child during extreme emotional responses- mood swings, anger, irritation, loneliness
- Guide properly but don’t judge and reward them based on their marks or performances as good or bad
- Create a safe space that helps child to discuss anything without any fear and hesitation
- Hug them daily, tell them that how much you love them daily
- Instill confidence and self-esteem in them for who they are and what they want to be
- Don’t insult them in front of anyone
- Don’t impose your experience or superiority
- Most importantly – always stand with them and put a hand around their back when they’re feeling low or as failure…make them understand that “it’s okey”..let’s move on
- Share openly about your own work and life experiences (success, challenges and failure) with them so that they can relate to who you are just beyond a parenting role
- “It’s Okay and Let’s move on..life is much bigger and beautiful ahead” – This is one algorithm that I believe we need to build in every child to build a default optimistic perspective towards everything in life.
Issues that teenagers face are as important and urgent as that of adults. Realising how mental health affects overall health, wellbeing, future decisions, career and even relationships makes it essential for us to take proactive steps towards it and start formally educating and training them for their mental health & wellbeing skills to make this world a better place.
By: Dr. Amrit Das