Recently, I sat down and spoke with Rachael K. Adams on The Love Offering podcast about how to Protect the Mental Health of You and Your Child. Right now, we’re all facing an uphill climb when it comes to mental health struggles. Nationwide, we have never seen such high rates of depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions. I hope my advice to you today will help as you navigate this current health crisis.
How to Protect the Mental Health of You and Your Child
Anxiety and depression are on the rise. As the Clinical Director of Community Counseling Associates in Dallas, TX, I see this daily. And as a mom of two and a former school counselor with over 20 years of experience in private practice, I know how difficult these situations can be. Today, I want to share some tools and advice for how to protect our mental health and the mental health of our children.
- Empowering our children to struggle well in hard seasons
- Managing difficult emotions and age-specific vocabulary to use
- Warning signs to look for & how moms can help
- 5 ways moms can protect their own mental health
Are your kids facing anxiety?
Anxiety is on the rise. I think this is due to the global perspective. We know more than we ever have before. Our kids have a better emotional vocabulary, so now they can identify their emotions. The good news is that this is the first step to coping with them. But it can’t stop there.
Discipleship Has to Start at Home
If you want your faith to be part of your child’s life and healing then it has to be something they can discuss openly with you. Church attendance is important, but 1 out of 168 hours is not enough time spent in church. Discipleship has to start at home.
Sitting With Grief
If your child is grieving don’t rush them. It’s OK to let them sit in the grief. We don’t need to skip over that part. Let them have negative feelings and express them, otherwise, they will hide them from you. We need to learn to listen and not dismiss what our kids are telling us.
As parents, we want to draw our kids out and help them deal with their emotions. Sometimes that’s as simple as asking. ‘Tell me more” is a great phrase for opening dialog about their fears and worries. You can also help them acknowledge their feelings by naming them. Tell them to identify where they feel it in their body. Once they can identify it, they can create a movement to let it go.
Mindset matters. I know that how I begin my day can make all the difference in how I face the stress that comes my way. You can help your child find ways to start each day in a good mindset by asking “How do I want to feel in the morning? What do I need to think in order to feel that way?”
Spending a few minutes before bed identifying what will help us start the next day in the right mindset can drastically change the way we walk into school, work, and life. I recommend meditating on scriptures that give you and your child a basis of truth to stand on when the world is swaying.
Be Aware of Patterns
When we’re thinking about identifying mental health struggles it’s important to be aware of patterns. Is your child socially isolating, how are they sleeping, how are they eating, how much are they moving, and how often are they crying? If you notice these behaviors keep cropping up it’s best to address them. Let your child know you care and you’re there to help them face whatever they’re struggling with.
Although it’s frightening to see our kids facing deep emotions, keep in mind these are temporary struggles. They might be difficult to manage at the moment, but they can help them in the future. If they learn to struggle well, they will be one of the most resilient generations. Our goal as parents is to give them the tools to adapt to change and navigate their emotional landscape with confidence. When they know they can get through hard times, it allows them to face the future with emotional strength and certainty.
There is almost nothing more frightening as a parent than learning your child has suicidal feelings. It’s an urgent situation that needs to be addressed quickly and most likely with a trained professional. As a crisis counselor, I’ve walked with many families who have sought help for their child who was experiencing suicidal ideation. Although it is a serious problem, I want to encourage you–your child can heal from trauma and suicidal thoughts.
I often tell families:
“Suicide or death is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.”
Though that seems very obvious to most adults, unfortunately, most kids don’t have the life experience to understand that many problems that are concerning to them today often resolve themselves with time. Add to that that the frontal lobe, which governs reason and decision making, is underdeveloped until the early to mid-twenties. In humans, the prefrontal cortex controls the ability to project future consequences that result from current actions.
The prefrontal cortex also helps with the suppression of socially unacceptable responses. This is why we often see teens “acting out” and testing social standards. We can help them thrive during this phase of brain development by calmly discussing what’s important to us as a family and why, and enforcing appropriate boundaries, while also expressing our unconditional love and acceptance.
I am praying that this episode will help you as you build up your child emotionally, relationally, and spiritually. Please visit the people and books mentioned in this episode for more advice and inspiration.