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Requiring Schools to Teach Students About Mental Health

How Parents Fighting Affects Kids’ Mental Health

This article was adapted from one that appears on the VeryWellFamily website. The full article offers more details and is well worth reading.

Studies show parents fighting affects children’s mental health in several ways. Physical altercations, insults, and tactics such as “the silent treatment,” are just a few of the toxic interactions that are likely to create some emotional damage to a child in the long run.

There’s research to suggest that a child as young as 6 months old can be negatively affected by harsh parental arguments. But it’s not just young kids who are affected by parents fighting – other studies show young adults, up to age 19, can be sensitive to conflicts in their parents’ marriage.

Researchers believe high-conflict marriages take a toll on a child’s mental health for several reasons:

  • Kids are emotionally insecure. Fighting undermines kids’ sense of security about the stability of the family. Children exposed to a lot of fighting may worry about divorce or wonder when one parent’s silent treatment is going to end. It can make it difficult for them to have a sense of normalcy in the family since fights may be unpredictable.
  • The parent-child relationship may be affected. High-conflict situations are stressful for parents too. And a stressed-out parent might not spend a lot of time with kids. In addition, the quality of the relationship may be affected as it may be difficult for parents to show warmth and affection when they’re angry and upset with the other parent.
  • Fighting creates a stressful environment. Overhearing frequent or intense fighting is stressful for kids. Stress can take a toll on their physical and psychological well-being and interfere with normal, healthy development.

Additional research has shown that parental fighting can also cause long-term mental health effects on their children, including:

  • Increased relationship problems
  • Decreased cognitive performance
  • Higher rates of behavior problems
  • Increased risk of eating disorders
  • Higher rates of adolescent substance abuse
  • Higher risk of academic problems

A spat or two doesn’t mean you’ve irreparably harmed your child. However, you might want to take a few steps to lessen the effects of what they saw and heard. If your disagreement grows disrespectful, you might take these steps to address the situation with your kids:

  • Discuss the fight.
  • Reassure the children that it was just an argument and not indicative of bigger problems.
  • Finish it up by making sure the children understand that you’re still a strong family.


The Importance of Children’s Mental Health

From time to time we like to take a step back and look at the big picture of what we’re all about here at Alta Behavioral Healthcare, and why we do what we do.

Our mission is to care for the mental health of the children, adolescents and young adults who are our clients. We found a very good summation of why this work is so important recently from the KidsMentalHealth.org website. The entire article is well worth reading; here are some highlights:


Children’s mental health is without a doubt the most important aspect of any child’s social and cognitive development.­

There are a myriad of factors that can impact a child’s mental health status, both positively and negatively. Many children…have a difficult time coping with their emotions. These children will usually make excellent candidates for mental health programs.

Some children may also be born with mental health issues. These issues are a product of nature rather than nurture, so the child may have a more difficult time dealing with his or her emotional state. Many children just naturally feel depressed or have anxiety issues. When these issues are not dealt with in the proper fashion, the children tend to have lower self-esteem and they struggle in the educational environment.

Studies have shown that these children, if left untreated by a mental health professional, will likely to grow up and repeat these same behaviors with their children. However, when these children are properly treated they can learn how to live a more promising life. They can overcome many of the issues that affect them without their consent. These children can live happy and productive lives that are filled with love, harmony and a great mental health status.­


Keeping Kids on the Path to Mental Health

A column in the Fort Wayne, Indiana Journal-Gazette caught our eye recently.

Columnist Helen Huser Nill, who is a mother of three and aunt to 37 nieces and nephews, notes how quickly things are changing in our society and the repercussions on our teens and young adults.

She writes “Our children are being squeezed harder and harder by society.…We are unknowingly allowing society, companies and universities to increase demands, heighten fear, raise distractions, steal unscheduled time and sleep, and reduce time with family and friends for our teens and young adults.”

“As parents we want the best for our children,” she continues. “It’s easy for us to get caught up in waves of popular societal ways and not consider the long-term effects when making decisions that could affect our children’s mental health.”

She goes on to recommend some things parents can do to help children and teens be mentally healthy:

  • Creating daily phone-free and computer-free dinner time.
  • Allowing for face-to-face time with your child, just being together.
  • Educating ourselves and our teens/young adults on signs of anxiety, depression and other mental health illnesses and issues. (Signs in children differ from those of adults.)
  • Ensuring teens have unscheduled time to play.
  • Making sure teens get enough sleep, with no phones in the bedroom at night.
  • Encouraging face-to-face social time with friends — phones off.
  • Encouraging adequate exercise and a healthy diet.
  • Scheduling an appointment for a mental health checkup/assessment if concerned about a child’s mental health.

The column is worth reading in full. You can find it here.



How to Keep Your Active Toddler Busy

Toddlers require at least three hours of physical activity throughout the day since it is crucial for their physical, emotional and social development. There are many reasons for parents to encourage their toddler to be active. For example, regular activity strengthens kids’ cardiovascular systems, improves coordination and movement control, encourages positive self-esteem and lengthens their attention spans.

As many parents learn, the toddler years can be exhausting. As a child transitions from baby age to toddler-hood, he or she thrives on new experiences and curiosity. But it can be arduous for parents to keep their toddler occupied longer than a few minutes.

Luckily, there are some easy methods parents can use to encourage physical activity while helping to manage the “busyness” and unpredictability that can sometimes result.

This article from babygaga.com collects ten of the most effective methods. It’s a great resource for parents of little ones who seem to always be “on the go.”

Caution Urged Over Social Media Use in Young Children

Parents are being warned they could be damaging toddlers’ mental health by allowing them to access social media from the age of two.

A new report from charity Barnado’s has raised concerns about potential exposure to inappropriate content and also how use of social media may affect the communication skills of young children. Although the research was conducted in the UK, it has universal application.

More than 60 per cent of professionals working with vulnerable children in the past six months said they were worried about under-five use of social media and other websites. The charity’s frontline staff expressed alarm that parents were handing iPads and phones over to toddlers to “keep them quiet,” something most parents would no doubt admit to. But this has led to fears about their safety.

Half of service practitioners responding said they had worked with children aged five to 10 who had been exposed to unsuitable or harmful materials online, and more than one third said children in that age group had been victims of cyberbullying.

The story about this report contains more detailed information, as well as links to further research on the effects of too much screen time (which includes TV and computers as well as mobile devices) on young children. Read it at this link.

Source: Yahoo News

Overweight Kids Who Are Teased Gain Even More Weight

Being a kid is tough enough, but it’s even more difficult if that child happens to be overweight. In a world obsessed with looking Insta-perfect even at grade-school age, any child who doesn’t fit that norm is often subjected to endless teasing and bullying — often leading to long-lasting body image issues and eating disorders.

Now a new study published in the journal Pediatric Obesity has found that children who are teased and bullied about their weight could suffer long-term effects as a result of that teasing. The study looked at 110 children and young teens who were either overweight or at risk for becoming overweight. The study followed up with the subjects anywhere from 1 to 15 years later and found that those who reported being teased about their weight had gained the most.

In the first follow-up visit, 62% of those involved in the study who were overweight had reported being teased at least once, while 21% of those who were deemed at risk of becoming overweight stating they had been teased, NPR reports. “There’s this school of thought that says [weight-based] teasing might have a motivating effect on youth,” says study author Natasha Schvey, assistant professor of medical and clinical psychology at the Uniformed Services University. “This study shows that that’s not only not true, but that teasing might increase weight gain over time.”

Despite whether they were overweight or not when they began the study, those who reported being teased about their weight gained more than those who weren’t. The numbers are significant too, with those who were teased about their weight seeing a 33% greater gain in Body-Mass Index (BMI) and a 91% greater gain in fat mass per year compared with peers who reported no teasing.

Although Schvey says the study is simply observational, “we can say weight-based teasing was significantly linked with weight gain over time.” Rebecca Puhl, deputy director for the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at the University of Connecticut, told NPR that studies like this are important because it shows how common this sort of teasing is at such a young age. “What [this] is telling us is that we need to do a better job protecting adolescents from weight-based teasing,” she says.

Puhl said that we need to address how everyone talks to children that are overweight —not just children but adults and healthcare professionals too — as well as teach kids how to cope when they do face teasing and bullying comments. “Clinicians and pediatricians need to be paying attention to this issue,” Puhl says.

Source: moms.com

Helping Your Child Build Healthy Self-Esteem

When children feel good about themselves, they are happy, they cooperate with others, they make friends easily and they are more likely to cooperate with adults and other children.

Factors that influence a child’s positive self-esteem and get them thinking good things about themselves are:

  • receiving praise, affection and attention from their parents
  • having their achievements recognized
  • having clear and consistent limits
  • receiving discipline that reinforces those limits

Here are some tips for you to help your child develop healthy self-esteem:

  1. Create a safe, predictable environment at home by having routines before and after school and for bedtime.
  2. Have clear household rules, and consequences if those rules are broken.
  3. Encourage your child to express their ideas and help make decisions.
  4. Help your child set goals and recognize their achievements.
  5. Encourage laughter.

For more information on the importance of helping your child have a healthy self-esteem, visit https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/self-esteem.html

New Online Mental and Behavioral Health Resources Available for Educators

A Collection of Mental and Behavioral Health Online Resources provides a foundational source of information about online mental health, social-emotional and behavioral health resources. These resources can be shared by school personnel and mental health professionals with children, adolescents and their families who are coping with mental health and behavioral health issues.

This compendium includes a general section that highlights national organizations, each having a vision and mission to provide information and support for individuals with mental illnesses and their families. In addition to the general section, the compendium includes sections for each of the following mental health and behavioral health concerns:

  • Anxiety Disorders
  • Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder
  • Autism
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Bullying (in general and of LGBT students)
  • Dating Violence
  • Depression
  • Eating Disorders
  • Human Trafficking
  • Sexual Assault
  • Substance Use and Abuse
  • Suicide
  • Self-Harm/Non-Suicidal Self-Injury
  • Trauma

A Collection of Mental and Behavioral Health Online Resources is a joint project of Project AWARE Ohio, the Ohio Mental Health Network for School Success and the Miami University School-Based Center for Mental Health Programs. It can be downloaded at this link.

Study: Childhood Bullying Increases Risk of Adult Mental Health Issues

It may seem intuitive already, but recent studies have proven a stark reality: a child who is bullied in school is more likely to suffer from mental health and related problems as an adult.

The study was carried out by researchers from Britain’s Lancaster University and presented at the Royal Economic Society’s annual conference at the University of Warwick.

Co-author Emma Goodman said “Being bullied causes detrimental effects on children’s lives not just in the short-term but for many years after. These are more pronounced among pupils who experience persistent bullying, or violent types of bullying.”

Specifically, the study found that being bullied in school increases the extent of mental health problems at age 25 by 40 per cent. In addition, bullying has a negative impact for adults in the areas of unemployment, income and ill-health.

Further details about the study can be found in an article published online by The Health Site.

Books Can Help Your Child Understand Emotional and Learning Challenges

Parents are always looking for as many resources as possible to help their kids cope with emotional, behavioral and learning challenges.

One such resource that can be very valuable is books.

The Child Mind Institute has compiled a list of 44 books that address mental health and learning disorders and other common challenges kids face, such as dealing with painful experiences and coping with strong emotions.

Included are books for kids up to age 12 — from picture books to be read with preschoolers to chapter books for independent reading by older children. Child Mind Institute clinicians read them all and picked the best in each category, based on how helpful they found them.

For titles and descriptions of these books, see this article.

Less Screen Time Means Healthier Kids, Families

Smartphones and iPads have made it easy to entertain small children, and teens are hooked on their cellphones.

Since so many children and young adults are spending many hours a day staring at screens, we need to ask: What are they missing? What is it doing to their brains? Will too much screen time harm them?

An internet search for “harmful effects of too much screen time” results in pages of links that leave no doubt that there’s a serious problem. If anyone needs personal verification, all they have to do is listen to the experiences of classroom teachers, pediatricians and child psychologists in regard to how many children’s behaviors have been affected by the overuse of technology.

The good news is there are things parents can do about it. While appreciating the positive aspects of the internet, computers and other new technologies, parents and other caregivers can take advantage of the excellent information available that tells them how to eliminate the dangers of too much exposure.

Encouraging children to play outside, banning electronics during meals and before bedtime, strictly limiting screen time, speaking to and looking at one another more often, doing physical activities together, playing board games as a family — all of those help. It also helps to make available blocks, cardboard boxes and other items so young children can use them to build things. Having art and writing supplies available so they can create art and express themselves helps, too.

And let them be bored. Boredom is the impetus children need to come up with ideas of their own, to enjoy quiet time, to think and to solve their own problems.

Many parents also need to limit their own time on smartphones, especially when their children are present. Parents who cherish the time they have with their children will never regret it.

Excerpted from a column by Pat Nash in the Baraboo News Republic. There is much more information contained in this article, including the specifics of how too much screen time can cause problems with childhood development. Read the entire article by clicking on this link

Daylight Saving Time May Affect Kids with Mental Health Disorders

If you’re the parent of a child with a mental health disorder, the recent change to Daylight Saving Time may have some health impacts you should be aware of.

Pediatricians at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio say the time change can have different negative effects for different disorders.

  • Changes in sleep patterns from time change can cause a manic episode in children and teens with bipolar disorder.
  • Kids dealing with depression and anxiety may find it hard to fall asleep and stay asleep.
  • Children with autism already tend to sleep one to two hours less than other kids their age, and they also wake up earlier.
  • The time change can affect kids with ADHD. The medication can cause “rebound hyperactivity” close to bedtime, making it difficult for kids to fall asleep.

Doctors have recommendations for better sleep quality — regardless of whether a child or teen has a mental health disorder or not:

  1. Devices like phones, tablets or televisions should be turned off or removed from the bedroom. An alternative is listening to calming sounds.
  2. Do not eat heavy meals before bed. A light, healthy snack is acceptable.
  3. Do not drink caffeinated beverages eight hours before bedtime.
  4. Keep bedrooms dark and cool with comfortable bedding.
  5. Do not exercise right before bed.

Source: WLFI.com

Depression and Anxiety Are Major Issues for Teens

According to a recent study and report conducted by the Pew Research Center, most American teenagers – across demographic groups – see depression and anxiety as major problems among their peers.

The survey found that 70 percent of teenagers saw mental health as a big issue. Fewer teenagers cited bullying, drug addiction or gangs as major problems, although kids from lower-income households were more likely to voice concerns about such matters. As reported in the New York Times, researchers found the consistency of the responses across gender, race and income lines as striking, and highlighted academic pressure as a significant worry.

The survey of 920 teenagers ages 13 to 17 in the United States was conducted online and by phone in the fall of 2018. Some psychologists have tied a growth in mental health issues among teenagers to increased social media use, pressure to succeed academically and frightening events like terror attacks and school shootings. Mental health experts offering advice to parents about their kids say listening — while not overloading with advice — is important, as is providing teens the opportunity to talk to a counselor or psychologist if needed.

“This research just validates exactly what we have been seeing at Alta for the last several years,” said Alta Behavioral Healthcare CEO Joe Shorokey. “It seems that there are more things pressing down on our children today than during previous generations, and social media is a huge part of that.”

How to Find a Good Therapist for Your Child

Just as you would never take your child to a medical doctor you didn’t have complete confidence in, you will naturally want to be just as careful in selecting the right professional when your child is in need of counseling or therapy.

There are several questions to ask and things to consider before choosing a therapist. The most basic ones include:

  1. Who is the therapist going to work with?
    Your child will not receive therapy in isolation. Issues involving children will inevitably involve the entire family, not just the child. So be certain the therapist you choose is willing to work with other family members too.
  2. Is the therapist skilled in working with the particular problem your child is experiencing?
    As a matter of course, you should be certain that any therapist you choose has the proper credentials and licensing. Beyond this, make sure he or she has skills in the particular area your child is having problems with.
  3. Look for a therapist with qualities that are most important to you and your child.
    He or she should have a personality and manner that makes your child (and you) feel comfortable, and demonstrate an empathy and understanding of the issues being faced.
  4. Other things to consider.
    If possible, choose a multi-service office — one that offers therapy, medication, case management and group work as opposed to just one service. And to ensure everyone will stick with the program, choose a therapist whose office and hours are convenient to you and in an area where you feel safe.
  5. Made sure you feel the connection.
    Connection is a big factor in healing for your child and your entire family. Just as in other walks of life, you don’t “hit it off” with everyone you meet. Don’t hesitate to seek out another therapist if the first one just isn’t working.

The above is just a summary of a longer document that expands on each one of these considerations. You can read the entire document by clicking here.