May is Mental Health Awareness Month: Helping Our Young Children
It is important to talk to our children about their emotional health to help them understand their moods and feelings. There are simple ways to make this easy and part of our everyday conversations with our children.
For example, help younger children name their emotions using simple words such as “I know you feel sad that we could not go to the park today” or “I feel angry that someone threw their trash in our yard”. Statements like these help children define their feelings and understand emotions. It also helps them know that it is natural to feel different emotions in different situations. Helping your child find healthy outlets for their emotions, such as taking deep breaths or listening to music that helps calm them down, is so important in helping them manage their emotions, both now and throughout their life.
Children of all ages can experience emotional disorders. If you want to check in with your child about how they are feeling, ask open-ended questions such as “Can you tell me a little more about what is going on?”, “How are you feeling?” or “Sometimes you need to talk to an adult about your feelings. I am here to listen. How can I help you feel better?”. Encourage them to write in a journal or draw a picture about how they are feeling when they are not comfortable talking or cannot find the words to explain what is happening to them. Listen openly and allow them to tell you about their fears and worries.
There are warning signs to watch for that can help you help your child. These include:
• Frequent tantrums or intense irritability much of the time;
• Often talk about fears or worries;
• Complains about frequent stomachaches or headaches with no known medical cause;
• Are in constant motion and cannot sit quietly (except when they are watching videos or playing videogames);
• Sleep too much or too little, have frequent nightmares, or seem sleepy during the day;
• Are not interested in playing with other children or have difficulty making friends;
• Struggle academically or have experienced a recent decline in grades;
• Repeat actions or check things many times out of fear that something bad may happen.
If you are concerned about your child’s emotional health, it is important to get appropriate help. Visit the MHRS Board website at www.ashtabulamhrsboard.org for information on local resources. You are not alone; we are here to help.
Ashtabula County Mental Health and Recovery Services Board