Children’s Mental Health Matters

imagesAs we continue through Mental Health month, we will be doing a series of posts. This is our second post.

May is mental health awareness month. To that end, we will be running a series of posts that will hopefully help to build a better understanding of what mental health is, and how to effectively combat the stereotypes. Most of our information has been gleaned directly from Mental Health America. Mental Health America (MHA) – founded in 1909 – is the nation’s leading community-based nonprofit dedicated to addressing the needs of those living with mental illness and to promoting the overall mental health of all Americans. Their extensive packet of information can be found here.

According to Mental Health America, it is important that children learn to talk about how they are really feeling and seek the help they may need. Helping a child to learn  to identify what they are really feeling without common words like bad, sad, mad, fine, or good takes time, but it is worth the effort to teach them to slow down and identify what is going on inside their heads. Many therapists note this is important because it can help a child to label what they are really experiencing and better improve communication and relationships with others.  Not much makes a parent’s heart hurt more than having a child feel lonely at lunch. If this has happened, a child may come home and say, “I felt bad when my friend ignored me at lunch today.” What the child is really saying is, ” I felt rejected.” Teach the child to take the time to talk to their friends and determine why they may have acted the way they did – this becomes a great life skill as it teaches a child to communicate effectively.  Although it is often hard for children to learn to do this, the earlier they learn to identify their real feelings, the less likely they will be as they age to distort thoughts. Drag out the thesaurus or help your child to brainstorm a list of words that actually identify what they are really feeling, the Mental Health America website suggests.  Who knows, maybe you’ll both learn some new vocabulary words. If nothing else, you’ll have opened a dialogue on how a child can express him/herself effectively – a skill that benefits everyone.