How to Protect Your Child’s Emotional Well-Being
A growing number of children and teens are struggling with their mental health. Many have experienced depression, anxiety, and loneliness—leading to an increased risk for suicide in some. These feelings don’t always manifest in ways you expect: Young children may show their distress with behavioral problems such as hitting or biting. Older kids and teenagers may show signs such as no longer wanting to do the things they once enjoyed. Others may argue more with family and friends.
Fortunately, you can help guide your child toward better mental health. Use these strategies to give them the support they need.
#1: Understand the depth of the problem
A review in the journal JAMA Pediatrics found that the rate of children diagnosed with depression or anxiety grew by 24% and 27%, respectively, between 2016 and 2019. And a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, behavioral problems increased by 21%. Since the pandemic began, more than 140,000 children—65% of whom are children of ethnic and racial minorities—have lost a parent or grandparent who used to provide daily care and stability.
All this adds up to children and teens being in a mental health crisis, as declared by the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and the Children’s Hospital Association in fall 2021.
#2: Be a positive role model
Express your feelings and treat yourself with kindness. Make time for exercise and other kinds of self-care. Let your child see that you value your mental health. It will make them more likely to take care of their own well-being.
#3: Spend quality time together
Do an activity that helps you feel connected, such as a movie night. This can be a great time to let your child know they can open up to you. If your child is unable to put their feelings into words, try something like painting. Teach your child ways to stay grounded, such as by practicing yoga and mindfulness.
#4: Reach out to your child’s pediatrician
A pediatrician can give you useful ideas about helping your child cope with emotional issues. They might suggest that your child talk with a professional counselor.
Learn more about supporting your child’s mental health
The CDC has additional tools and tips for helping your child thrive.