When we think of kids, we normally imagine the happy go lucky child who sees life as an adventure.
Unfortunately, this isn’t always the reality of the situation. You only need to turn on the news to see how mental illness and trauma impacts the lives of many young people.
Worse yet, many young people experience anxiety, depression and an assortment of other mental illnesses even when they haven’t experienced neglect or abuse.
We live in stressful times and anyone who has been on social media knows how much it influences teens and young adults… Teens have even participated in tide pod challenges just to show off for their friends.
So what can we as parents do to protect them?
Every child is different and acts out in different ways. However, if you notice a dramatic shift in behavior, there’s a good chance something serious is bothering them.
In general, the following signs are a good indication you need to check in:
- Mood changes. Look for feelings of sadness or withdrawal that last at least two weeks or severe mood swings that cause problems in relationships at home or school.
- Intense feelings. Be aware of feelings of overwhelming fear for no reason — sometimes with a racing heart or fast breathing — or worries or fears intense enough to interfere with daily activities.
- Behavior changes. These include drastic changes in behavior or personality, as well as dangerous or out-of-control behavior. Fighting frequently, using weapons and expressing a desire to badly hurt others also are warning signs.
- Difficulty concentrating. Look for signs of trouble focusing or sitting still, both of which might lead to poor performance in school.
- Unexplained weight loss. A sudden loss of appetite, frequent vomiting or use of laxatives might indicate an eating disorder.
- Physical symptoms. Compared with adults, children with a mental health condition might develop headaches and stomachaches rather than sadness or anxiety.
- Physical harm. Sometimes a mental health condition leads to self-injury, also called self-harm. This is the act of deliberately harming your own body, such as cutting or burning yourself. Children with a mental health condition also might develop suicidal thoughts or attempt suicide.
- Substance abuse. Some kids use drugs or alcohol to try to cope with their feelings.
We all have busy lives which sometimes makes it hard to notice when our kids are struggling, but as long as you keep an open line of communication and stay involved, you can notice problems before the situation becomes dire.
Being a teen or young adult is hard – which we sometimes forget – so give your child a break and let them know they can tell you anything.
You may even end up being their lifeline… even if they would never admit it.