Story by Elena Antoniou
According to official statistics by UNICEF, at least one in seven children globally were forced to remain at home due to nationwide public health orders or government recommendations. Almost all young people of school age were affected here in Australia.
Although our kids are remarkably resilient, many are struggling to adjust to the changes. This is only natural given the routines that once gave them a sense of control were turned on their heads. Their classrooms have been swapped for computer screens, and their friendships put on pause. It’s understandable they might feel irritable, frustrated, or even sad sometimes.
Parents, caregivers, and other significant adults play a very important role in a child’s development, and in building and protecting their mental health and wellbeing during these strange times. How do parents or caregivers know if a child’s emotions are a normal reaction to an abnormal situation, or if what they’re seeing are signs of more significant mental health issues developing?
If you’re concerned your child is experiencing severe sadness, anger, or depression, then ask yourself these four questions:
- Is my child no longer interested in doing things they once enjoyed?
- Have their eating and sleeping patterns changed?
- Are they having trouble finishing tasks they use to find easy?
- Have they talked about self harm or wishing they were no longer alive?
Changes like these are red flags children may need professional help. Mental health and resilience are established early in a child’s life and are the foundation for all aspects of their personal development, including physical, educational, social, emotional, and cognitive. In fact, half of all mental health conditions experienced in adulthood will have shown signs of being present before the age of 14. In short, the best time to act always is during the formative years.
If you’re keen to learn more, non-profit information service Emerging Minds provides one-hour short courses that may help, including ‘Building Blocks for Children’s Mental and Emotional Health’ and ‘Understanding Child Mental Health’.