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Caring for children's mental health

Mental Health Awareness Month isn't just about adults

Most children are experiencing more stimulation and busyness than ever before. Because of that, opportunities for emotional regulation and learning how to properly navigate emotions can be a struggle – just like they can be for adults today.
Imagine how that feels when your brain isn’t even fully developed, and life is moving at a pace you can’t keep up with … and then you have big feelings you don’t understand.
Mental health awareness for children is paramount to pouring into the next generation and supporting them in ways they can thrive. Caring for their mental health is just an extension of caring for their overall health and well-being – including mental, emotional and behavioral.
Children experiencing disorders todayThe U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports 20% of children between the ages of 3 and 17 has a mental, emotional, behavioral or developmental disorder – with many more at risk of developing a disorder based on the risk factors within their communities, biology or genetics.

What does mental health look like for children?

As adults, we may relate our mental health to things like burnout and overwhelm from work, caregiving and overall responsibilities for self and others. For children, mental health can affect how children think, feel and act, as well as how they handle stress, relate to others and how they make choices.
Adverse childhood events (ACEs) are also associated with children’s mental and physical health. For children who have experienced racism, the CDC reports nearly 40% versus 27% had higher percentages of one or more physical health conditions, and one or more mental health conditions (28.9% compared to 17.8%).
Mental health in children has a direct impact in a child’s ability to succeed in school and in society.
According to the CDC, 1 in 6 U.S. children ages 2 to 8 years old (17.4%) have a diagnosed mental, behavioral or developmental disorder. And for children living below the federal poverty level, more than 20% experience one or more of these disorders.
Spotting the signs of a mental health disorder in children can be difficult but overall, it’s described as serious changes in the way they typically learn, behave or handle their emotions. It’s likely creating stress and causing problems getting through the day.
If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, call or text 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988 or chat at 988lifeline.org. In life-threatening situations, call 911.

Help your child navigate emotions

Mental health and schoolJust like we have to take mental breaks as adults from the inundation of news, work, school and other obligations, our children often need to step away from overstimulation and recenter.
As parents and guardians, we can help set the example by displaying ways to regulate our emotions when we’re experiencing frustration, anger, fear and more. Self-regulation isn’t a skill we are born with but need to learn through practice and more practice.
Instead of jumping in to solve a problem when your child is frustrated, create an opportunity to coach them through the tough situation. Whether that’s learning how to tie their shoes or how to drive, taking a new challenge and breaking it into more doable parts can help children learn how to navigate it themselves. It also leaves room for conversations about how they’re feeling throughout the learning process.
Read about tips on how to regulate your emotions here – and help your child too.
Below are a few books you and your child can read together to help understand their emotional and mental health:

  • Be Happy: A Little Book of Mindfulness:” This book shares a journey between two best friends and how they stay present and positive as they share thoughts and feelings with each other. Recommended for ages 2-5.
  • How to Master Your Mood in Middle School:” This helps children in middle school identify, manage and regulate emotions and moods. Recommended for ages 10-14.
  • Perfectly Norman:” A picture book to help children embrace and celebrate what makes them unique – part of the Big Bright Feelings series which helps discuss a variety of emotional intelligence topics. Recommended for ages 3-6.

Find support for you and your child through Buckner programs

Journeying through emotions, challenges and even trauma is not easy to do – especially on your own. Buckner has a variety of programs to support and empower the entire family to live up to their God-given potential.
Mental health and living under the poverty levelFrom counseling, community events, one-on-one family coaching and activities for the whole family, the Buckner Family Hope Center® has opportunities for both you and your child to improve your mental health.
For single parents looking to change the course of their family’s future by heading back to school, Buckner Family Pathways® provides wrap-around support with counseling, parenting and money management training, mentorship, child care and more. Single parents and their children don’t have to walk this journey alone.

Learn more about National Mental Health Month here.

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