May is Mental Health Awareness month! Given the effects of self-isolation on much of the world, there is no better time to check in on our thought patterns, the way we handle stress, and the choices we make as a result. Many of us are aware of the impact mental health has on our overall wellbeing; however, only a small portion of the population have the resources or the knowledge to effectively manage their mental wellness.
It’s also critically important to consider our children’s mental health as they take on the stresses of everyday life—including active shooter fears, peer pressure, and high academic expectations, to name a few—while adding to it the anxiety that many children have endured as a result of the sudden changes and uncertainties experienced during self-isolation.
Research shows that 1 in 7 children and teens have a treatable mental health disorder, such as depression, anxiety, or ADHD, but only half receive the treatment needed from a mental health professional. Inadequate resources and limited numbers of children’s mental health professionals are exacerbating the treatment gap; yet, it’s becoming increasingly clear that mental health needs to be a bigger priority given its impact on children’s happiness, safety, and development. Children’s mental health is a real concern and should be a real priority. Now is the time to actively pursue real solutions.
May 7this Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day! Let’s not allow the day to pass without taking the time to pause and reflect on the challenge we face in raising healthy children. Let’s re-connect with the tools we have at our own disposal to help our children manage stress and anxiety… and even teach them to help themselves.
Mindfulness is an increasingly popular method of taking a pulse on our thoughts and emotions with a goal of fully understanding and processing them rather than avoiding them as has become commonplace for adults and children alike. Mindfulness meditation is also a popular means of offering ourselves space to observe thoughts as they arise, acknowledge and accept them for what they are, and constructively release them, thus gradually reducing the power they hold on us.
Many parents think of mindfulness and meditation as adult tools or as too complicated to teach a child. But recent research suggests that with patience and practice, positive results are possible. Indeed, mindfulness and meditation require time to learn and daily practice to cultivate, but in doing so, we can empower our children to influence their own mental wellness. From a young age, they can understand themselves more intimately, identify their triggers, recognize their reactions to stress and anxiety, and be active participants in choosing behaviors that lead to improved states of mental wellbeing.
Empowering our children with a mental health toolkit at an early age is one of the greatest gifts we can offer. The tools are available—conscious breathing, mindfulness, grounding, meditation, affirmations, and yoga— and there isn’t a minimum age requirement. The time is now. Let’s help our children help themselves and, in doing so, change the future.
The following articles were referenced in the research for this article and may be of interest to those seeking more information:
1. Mostafavi, Beata. “Half of US Children with Mental Health Disorders Are Not Treated.” University of Michigan Health Lab. February 2019.
2. Garey, Juliann. “The Power of Mindfulness.” Child Mind Institute. ChildMind.org.