Good mental health is an important part of healthy child development. It helps build children positive productive members of society who are emotionally, behaviourally and mentally prepared for the world. It will help them to have the best thinking and communication skills they are able; being mindful of their mental health can be a useful tool for their wellbeing later in life. Trigger warning / Content warning: Please be advised the following contains content that may Trigger some audiences.
Why Do We Need to Check on our Children’s Mental Health?
When children and teenagers feel happy and positive about themselves most of the time, they are not obstructed by internal negative thought patterns. They tend to be inwardly kind to themselves during tough times or when things don’t go the way they expect. They can concentrate in school, get along well with family and friends, have methods for dealing with sad, worrying or angry feelings and can bounce back from tough times.
All in all, this makes for a happy child with positive mental health. However, unfortunately it doesn’t always work that way. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, in 2019 suicide was the leading cause of death of children between 5 and 17 years of age, with 80% of those being between 15 and 17. External stresses can sometimes become a burden on even young children who are usually happy children. Prolonged stress can result in anxiety, impaired memory, disrupt mood control and even disrupt the development of brain and other organ systems and increase the risk for stress-related disease and brain function well into the adult years.
Parenting to Support your child and their Mental Health
As parents or carers, there are daily opportunities to develop who are children are shaping up to be. It’s important to make sure our children are given the best opportunities to grow up healthy, and that includes supporting their mental health. Having rules and boundaries, not only at school but in the home environment, help children of all ages feel safe and secure. Help your child to set realistic goals for their age and abilities and work towards achieving them. Offer healthy food and encourage healthy eating habits in your family, letting them see you an eating healthy diet as well.
Encourage your child to try plenty of different physical activities and sports and join in with them in their sports and games on the weekends. Make sure your child gets the sleep they need. Quality sleep will help your child to manage stress and a busy life, just like you. Work on developing positive ways to solve problems and manage conflicts in the household and give your child a strategy to use if they start to feel anxious or overwhelmed.
This can be as simple as three deep breaths. Talking about emotions with your child is also often overlooked, but it can help especially younger children to recognise and label their emotions. It’s perfectly normal not to feel happy all the time, and important that your children hear this from you. Sometimes it can help to talk to someone other than a parent or carer too, and family counselling is a safe way to do that.
Your Child can get a Mental Health check-up
When our cars are struggling, we take them to a mechanic. When our bodies are struggling, we take them to a doctor. When our minds are struggling, we should also take them to the professional. At ConnectAbility, our Mission is to “Empowering people to achieve their goals, dreams, and aspirations”.
A child’s emotional wellbeing and mental health is shaped by both their biology, and the environment in which they live and grow. Trauma, neglect, forced removal or abandonment can have a major impact on a child’s mental health throughout their life, but there are also other factors you may not have considered that can influence a child’s mental health, which can cause a significant interference in day-to-day life. Talking to someone about these can be an important tool for equipping your child to manage them.
How Adolescent and Family Counsellors Can Help
Adolescent and Family Counsellors provide individual and relationship counselling. It is a free confidential counselling in a safe environment for young people aged 9 to 18 years and/or their families. Our Family counsellors will work with you or your children to identify the issues that are causing distress or disharmony and we will work with you on developing solutions to improve your life. Our counsellors also run parenting skills programs and groups for adolescents to build life skills. They are there to listen and confidentially support young people and their families to achieve positive change by:
- Providing a safe place to talk about issues and feelings
- Providing strategies to cope with family relationship issues
- Linking families/individuals to resources within their community
- Promoting and supporting the family as a functional unit wherever possible which may include positive parenting skill development
- Providing a preventative service before major problems develop
- Advocacy on behalf of adolescents
- Promoting emotional growth, independence and client self-determination
- Fostering healthy relationships between young people and their families leading to the young person staying in the family home or being restored to the family home if appropriate
- We are available to see young people within school hours or after school hours
Don’t hesitate, Reaching out is a positive step!
Speaking to a councillor face to face can be a useful mechanism for dealing with childhood stresses, helping to manage emotions, facing grieving a loved one or after having experienced trauma, and as a mental health check-up system. You can easily contact ConnectAbility through an online contact form to arrange Family and Adolescent Counselling, free of charge. However, there are services that assist children and their mental health if you feel you need help immediately. If your child is at immediate risk of harm to themselves or others, immediately contact emergency services on 000. Other mental health services include:
- Beyond blue (which includes Help for people who are deaf or hard of hearing and Help for people for whom English is not their first language through an immediate or pre-booked phone interpreting service
- Kids Helpline (telephone and online counselling for ages 5-25)
- Lifeline’s Text Service 0477 13 11 14 (Short-term support for people who are feeling overwhelmed or having difficulty coping using real-time SMS to connect with a Crisis Supporter)
- eheadspace to chat online
- SANE Australia (people living with a mental illness and their carers) — call 1800 18 7263
- ReachOut (youth mental health service) — visit the website for info or use the online forum
How you can get to know us
You can visit ConnectAbility at our new purpose-built premises which located at 26 Warabrook Boulevard, Warabrook NSW 2304. We are also at 4 Karalta Lane, Erina NSW 2250. To organise some family, child or adolescent counselling, email or call us at Warabrook or Erina. If you think you or someone you know could benefit from our services, please make a referral online and we will be in touch as soon as possible.
This information is not intended to replace the advice from trained medical professionals. Always consult your child’s physician for personalised medical advice. If your child is at immediate risk of harm to themselves or others, immediately contact emergency services on 000.