Take care of your child’s mental health

DO you know that mental health problems in children can display different symptoms to those in an adult, although the actual conditions may be similar?

A child may not be able to put into words exactly how he/she is feeling so, as an adult - whether a parent, caregiver or teacher - being able to recognise and understand the warning signs in your child will hopefully lead to the child receiving the relevant help needed.

The child may be evaluated to distinguish possible mental health conditions from learning disabilities or developmental delays. The resulting treatment plan may be in the form of psychological counselling or, in more serious cases, medication prescribed by a psychologist.

According to a consulting hypnotherapist Petra­ Nicol, leaving a problem unaddressed may affect your child’s ability to function socially, in school, and in life in general.

“Where there is a genuine, medically diagnosable condition that has been left untreated, it can result in failing at school, withdrawal from friends and family, law-breaking and, in worse cases, suicidal tendencies,” she explained.

Further she said that if the parent is concerned about their child’s mental health they should investigate further, saying: “If possible talk to your child’s teacher or other caregivers to see if they’ve noticed any changes in his/her behaviour. Then consult a medical professional, describing the behaviour that concerns you and what others have observed.”

She said that there is no simple test, but the signs and symptoms of the concern, as well as how the condition affects the child in their daily life, all assist with making a diagnosis.

“Your child may be referred for evaluation and treatment by a psychiatrist, psychologist, or counsellor,” said Nicol.

She also added that they may ask numerous questions to explore other likely causes for the behaviour, including the child’s development and family history.

Nicol revealed that while it’s important for an early diagnosis to ensure the best way forward, development varies from child to child and young children often struggle to express their feelings and emotions.

“In the time before a child receives a diagnosis of a mental health condition, both parents and children often develop feelings of anger, frustration, and helplessness.

“The child needs your support now more than ever. Don’t feel afraid to ask your child’s medical professional for advice on how to better interact with your child and respond to any challenging behaviour,” said the hypnotherapist.

She reiterated that parents should make use of support groups or counselling to help the child and family understand the child’s challenges and how they can all assist.

Nicol also advised that parents should build their child’s strengths and try to relax and have fun together, saying: “Support him/her with learning relaxation techniques because this will help you both to cope.”

In conclusion, she said that the parents should keep in touch with the key educators at their child’s school, keep them updated as to the child’s diagnosis and treatment plan. Adding that, if necessary, they should work with the school staff to develop an academic plan that meets their child’s needs.

“If you’re even slightly concerned about your child’s mental health for any reason, seek medical advice without delay.

“The stigma that was associated with mental illness is fading. Don’t been afraid. There is light at the end of the tunnel, and your child is worth it,” said Nicol.

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