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These red flags warn that your child may have a mental health disorder

Published on:22 August 2021, 08:00am IST
There are several signs that show up in children that indicate their mental health isn’t in good shape. Here’s what you need to watch out for
Susan Stephens
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Mental health of children is of utmost importance. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
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Childhood is such an essential part of one’s life. It determines the individual’s developmental and overall functioning. Good mental health during childhood simply means that they have a positive relationship with their family, meet their developmental milestones; learn healthy coping skills, and enjoy a supportive environment around them. When one or more of these factors are not met, the child is likely to have mental health concerns. 

With the ongoing pandemic and schooling happening from home, a lot of changes have happened and the children go through a lot of adjustment concerns that are sometimes neglected. Although the internet and technology has a lot of pros, it definitely comes with a lot of cons as well. This includes excessive screen time and not knowing when to stop and draw the line, which can again lead to a lot of mental health concerns.

Here are a few mental health signs that should not be neglected in children:

1. Behavioural signs

Behavioural changes in children occur when there are modifications in the environment around them or when things do not go their way. This could include their interactions with their peers, family, as well as with their significant others. In context with the pandemic, children are seen to have a lot of behavioural concerns, especially because their play is limited within the walls of their house.

Also, read: Talking about mental health can save lives and it’s high time that we start discussing it at home

Red flags: Temper tantrums, harming oneself or others, withdrawal, overeating or under-eating, changes in sleep patterns, and gadget dependence (excessive screen time)

2. Emotional signs

Emotions form the framework of a human being’s ability to think and feel. Just as adults experience complex emotions, children also experience a wide range of emotions. However, sometimes children find it difficult to explain the kind of emotions they are feeling, and this leads to a lot of emotional distress, which causes a spiral down in their overall well-being. With the pandemic, adults and children have been going through a whirl of emotions especially with regard to uncertainty and channelling emotions.  In correlation to this, child abuse and domestic violence are being seen as major contributors to these emotional concerns in children. 

mental health in kids
Your kid’s mental health also needs attention. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Red flags: Persistent sadness over a period of time from 3-6 weeks, bouts of crying, feeling anxious, clinging and unwilling to let go of the parent, excessive fear( new or recurring fear), spells of anger, whining, and stubbornness.

3. Academic concerns

Academics play a pivotal role, especially in the case of children, for it determines their understanding, knowledge as well as the ability to retain and reproduce information that is learned. With the new normal, having to do school from home has been a challenge for the students and especially for the parents. ‘Screen time’ has no limit anymore as before, because of online classes. Although, they do help the students in doing their research and projects, it has left the children experiencing a lot of other concerns

Red flags: The common academic concerns that a child experiences and exhibits are attention/retention, difficulty in comprehension, learning difficulties, drop in grades as a result of showing disinterest towards academics and skipping schools. The other concerns that could play a role in affecting academics in children are changes in their environment or with emotions that are difficult to handle 

4. Self/social related signs

Childhood is the essence of adulthood and having a positive environment helps the child to have a healthy relationship with oneself and others around them. The lockdown and pandemic has given a lot of families their family time, but the flip side to it is that a number of parents are also  immersed in their work, which has led to children feeling neglected.  As children grow, they are always in a constant struggle between their real self and their ideal self. The struggle is influenced by peer pressure, parenting styles, and social interactions. 

mental health in kids
Mental health problems are distressing to children and disrupt their ability to function. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Red flags: When the child is in a constant battle to find out their identity, the common signs to look for are self-doubt, and constant comparison with peers. Inferiority complexes can also be seen.

5. Coping related signs

The current pandemic has brought a lot of changes and even more in children when they try comprehending the new normal. The meaning of freedom is lost somewhere along the way. 

Red flags: When the child is unable to cope with the stress around them, the common signs to look out for are, non-compliance to rules, lack of organization skills around the house, the need to gratify their wants immediately and most importantly, lack of time management which includes their increasing use of screen time. 

Children begin their formative years by observing and learning from their parents and significant others in their lives. It is important that parents model positive and healthy behaviour to their children for them to have a good transition through adolescence. These are just some common signs to look out for; however, parents need to be more mindful in their approach for holistic growth in their children, walking along with them in this journey.

Susan Stephens Susan Stephens

Susan Stephens, Sr. Counselor & Psychotherapist, Medall Mind