Emotional Health in School-Age Children
The importance of mental health cannot be underestimated. Monitoring emotional health for school-age kids is important for setting your child up for success. Although it can be difficult to detect or differentiate from the natural stresses of growing up, understanding mental and emotional health can be the difference between surviving and thriving. Mental illness does not discriminate and can change over time. If your school-age child is struggling with mental health in Coppell, Texas, call Dr. Moemeka today at Mark9 Pediatrics for caring, respectful support for your child and your family.
Recognize the signs
Recognizing the signs of mental health issues and mental illness is the first step to helping your child. Anyone who is intimately involved in your child’s life (parent, teacher, caretaker, friend, etc.) should be able to detect changes in your child’s behavior. Importantly, if you notice any changes in your child’s attitude or behavior, you should say something. Some signs you should watch out for are:
- Stark or sudden mood changes
- Changes in personality
- Loss of self-esteem
- Disinterest in hobbies
- Excessive sleepiness, fatigue, or insomnia
- Sudden changes in weight or loss of appetite
- Talk of self-harm, pointlessness, anxiety, or constant worry
- Struggling in school or with friends
- Suddenly taking unnecessary risks
These are not the only signs that you need to watch for, but noticing any changes in your child’s behavior can help your child get the help he needs to thrive.
Mental health screening
During your child’s well exam, Dr. Moemeka will perform a mental health screening to make sure that your child is mentally healthy. To do this, she will ask a number of questions about your child’s social and emotional health to screen for any signs of mental or emotional distress or problems.
Bullying is a serious problem, especially with technology providing anonymity and allowing people to say things they would never say in person. This harmful practice can push kids over the edge, cause emotional turmoil, and create neural pathways that could affect them for years and will require professional psychological help to rewire.
For this reason, if your child is being bullied, you need to say something. Also, if your child is bullying other kids, you need to step in. As a community, it is our responsibility to protect our children.
How to tell if your child is being bullied:
- Unhappiness or shift in mood and self-confidence
- Purposely getting in trouble to avoid recess
- Fear of fellow classmates
- Fear of going to school
- Lost or destroyed belongings
- Unexplained injuries
- Frequent illness or frequently faking sick to stay home
- Nightmares or difficulty sleeping
- A decline in school performance
- Self-destructive behavior
These are not all of the signs of bullying, but they are some key ones that you should watch for. While talking to your child’s teacher or school administrator can help, bullying is often a delicate situation that requires gentle care to really fix. Sometimes, actions that seem like they should help can actually make the situation worse for your child. Work with your child’s teachers, school administrators, counselors, and pediatrician to come up with the best course of action for protecting your child.
The long-term impact of bullying is serious and can, in some cases, be life-threatening. To learn more about bullying and what you can do to help your child, visit stopbullying.gov.
Depression, PTSD, and ADD/ADHD
Depression, PTSD, and ADD/ADHD are not things to be ignored. It is important to note that these conditions are mental illnesses that require professional medical treatment. They will not go away on their own, and they are more serious than just the stress growing up. Therefore, if your child is expressing any of the symptoms of these disorders, seek professional help.
While many people will, at some point in their lives, have “the blues,” clinical depression is different and very serious. Depression doesn’t need a cause and it doesn’t discriminate; even when it seems like there is nothing to “be depressed about”, your child can still suffer from clinical depression. Without appropriate treatment, medication, and/or therapy, untreated depression can be a debilitating mental illness that hinders every aspect of your child’s life.
If your child seems depressed, call your Coppell pediatrician today to get the support your child needs.
Anyone who has experienced any kind of trauma can experience post-traumatic stress disorder. PTSD can be diagnosed in children as young as 6 years old—and, in some cases, even younger. Signs of PTSD in young children include nightmares, recurring memories of traumatic events, prolonged physical distress to certain triggers or situations, hypervigilance, trouble concentrating, or irritability. Learn more about symptoms of PTSD in young children from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.
ADD/ADHD can severely impact your child’s school performance and self-confidence. It may require intervention from medication and a specialist who understands how to work with your child to reach their academic milestones. ADHD profoundly impacts how the brain works, so these children will need accommodations to thrive personally, academically, and socially. Talk to Dr. Moemeka about how you can get your child the support she needs to reach her full potential.
Eating disorders are very serious and must be treated, especially in young children. There are a number of reasons that a child can develop an eating disorder, and they can even develop in very young children. The earlier that you intervene, the better chance your child has of a successful recovery. These are mental illnesses that need to be taken very seriously because they can be life-threatening and accompany many other mental health concerns.
Signs to look for are food hoarding, binge eating, or obsessive behavior. If you suspect that your child is suffering from an eating disorder or is likely to suffer from one, seek professional help as soon as possible. Some eating disorders seen in young children include:
- Anorexia Nervosa
- Bulimia Nervosa
- Binge Eating Disorder
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, self-harm is quite common among teens and young adults. However, it can start much earlier, especially in children who are bullied or have experienced some kind of trauma. Self-harm is not in itself a mental illness, but it is indicative of mental illnesses such as depression, eating disorders, and PTSD.
Self-harm is not necessarily an attempt at suicide; it is a coping mechanism. While you should watch your child closely and get her help for her underlying mental health conditions, a child who self-harms is not necessarily suicidal. While the number of children who commit suicide is startling, and children who self-harm may be more susceptible to thoughts of suicide, your child may not be in immediate danger. Always take self-harm seriously—no child is too young to consider suicide, so getting professional help as soon as possible is essential.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255
Dealing with mental health issues
As a parent, it can be very hard to watch your child struggle with mental health issues, especially when it includes bullying or self-harm. Recognizing the signs of poor emotional health in school-age kids is the first step to helping your child. Dr. Moemeka will work with you and other subspecialists to treat and monitor your child’s emotional wellness.
Everyone’s brain works differently, and no two paths to recovery are going to be the same. So, be patient, gentle, and understanding with your child as she works through these issues. She will need a safe space, and you can be that space. Work with your pediatrician, psychologist, and psychiatrist to make sure that your child has the support system and treatment plan she needs to live a full, happy life.
“Whoever receives a child in my name receives me”
– Mark 9:37
Recognizing mental illness and emotional health can help give your child back her life. Talk to Dr. Moemeka about your child’s mental health or about how you can get the appropriate support today. Call Mark9 Pediatrics today at (972) 325-2005 or request an appointment online to reserve your appointment.