Taking care of your child’s mental health: Guest blog by Chloe Walker

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(image: Power of Positivity)

Mental health is extremely important and has a significant impact on a person’s overall health and wellbeing. According to a recent survey by the NHS, one in eight 5 to 19 year olds had at least one mental disorder when assessed. As a parent, you play a crucial role in your child’s mental health. Fortunately, you can help improve your child’s mental health by creating a supportive family environment at home and learning the early warning signs of common mental health disorders, for example. With this in mind, here are some top ways to care for your child’s mental health. 

Develop a good bedtime routine 

Sleep plays a vital role in a child’s mental health. Research shows that there is a strong link between sleep problems and an increased risk of developing certain mental illnesses. In fact, one study found that four-year olds with sleep disorders have a much higher risk of developing symptoms of mental health conditions as six-year olds, when compared with children without sleep problems. Experts at Little Lucy Willow add – “Sleep keeps you calm, your mind alert, and recharges your body to enable you to get up and face each day.” For that reason, you must try and get your child into a good bedtime routine from a young age. Here are some top tips to help your child sleep better:

  • Create an ideal sleeping space by providing a comfortable bed, installing blackout curtains, and minimising any outdoor noise. 
  • Encourage your child not to use electronics like smartphones before bed. 
  • Get your child into a consistent routine where they go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day. Try to keep this the same on school days and weekends. 
  • Make sure that your child avoids any caffeine in the afternoon or evenings. 
  • Visit your GP if your child has been experiencing sleep problems for more than two weeks, or if the symptoms are interfering with their daily life. 

Exercise as a family 

Exercise plays an important role in a child’s overall health. Along with the physical benefits, regular exercise can greatly improve mental wellbeing. This is because physical activity releases endorphins in the brain which creates feelings of happiness and alleviates stress and anxiety. According to advice on the NHS website, children should get at least 60 minutes of moderate intensity exercise every day.

To give you an idea, examples of moderate intensity exercise include walking to school, riding a bicycle, and playground activities. Exercising as a family is an excellent way to encourage your child to be active. It also allows you to spend quality time together as a family and build closer bonds. Playing games in the garden, going for a walk in the park, or going on a bike ride, are all fun ways to exercise together as a family. You could also encourage your child to start playing a team sport they’re interested in, such as football, rugby, or hockey. 

Encourage open communication

You must create a welcoming family environment that is built around trust and understanding. This will help your child feel comfortable telling you about any issues surrounding their mental health. Encourage open communication in your family and make sure you check on your child if you notice any changes in their behaviour i.e. they become distant or their eating habits change.

Remember that children tell people how they are feeling in several ways, not always verbally. A sudden change in behaviour may signal that your child is struggling and needs support. Always listen to your child and empathise with their feelings. Let them know that it’s natural to feel down from time to time and offer support in any way you can.

If you’re still worried about your child’s mental health, then speak with your GP or contact a mental health specialist for further advice. 

Final thoughts 

Mental health illnesses in children are becoming increasingly common and can lead to several serious long-term effects. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways for you to care for your child’s mental health. Encouraging healthy habits is a simple yet effective way to improve your child’s mental well-being. This should include exercising regularly, getting enough quality sleep, and following a nutritious diet. Along with this, you should also educate yourself on the symptoms of common mental health conditions in children and create a warm, trusting home environment that encourages open communication. Speak to a medical professional if you need to.

This guest blog was written by professional writer Chloe Walker.

 

Guest Post: Teens and Internet Addiction. 4 Positive Strategies to help recovery

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This article has been written by Paradigm Treatment Centers in USA who specialise in helping vulnerable teenagers with mental health issues.  Paradigm San Francisco is a small, residential treatment programme. The adolescents who come to them for treatment  have issues they need help with including but not limited to Anxiety, Depression , ADD, Grief, Trauma,  Addiction, Substance Abuse, Eating Disorders and any number of Mental or Emotional health concerns. For more information please see: http://paradigmsanfrancisco.com

Parenting a teenager today means navigating through what feels like uncharted territory because of the influence of technology. In the past, parents had to worry about the dangers of drug and alcohol addiction, but at least those were fairly simple to keep out of their home. Now, the internet is found everywhere, from libraries to schools and your teen’s phone. With such easy access, it is easy to see why internet addiction has become a thing, and you can use these strategies to help your child learn how to manage their screen time.

Recognize the Signs

Internet addiction starts subtly with teens simply spending more time online. At first, you may just think that they have found a new group of friends or are passionately researching a recently acquired interest. Over time, however, the signs that it is interfering with their life will slowly start to appear. As your teen’s addiction to the internet begins to get serious, you may start to notice the following signs.


  • Preoccupation with the internet such as anxiously awaiting their next online chat session or constantly checking their social media accounts
    • Need to be online for increasing amounts of time to maintain the same level of satisfaction
    • Withdrawal symptoms such as moodiness and depression when they are forced to cut back on their screen time
    • Accidentally staying online longer than expected such as staying up all night or missing an important event due to their internet activities
    • Drop in academic performance
    • Decreased personal hygiene, although an increased interest in appearance also occurs if a teen is involved with video chatting
    • Lies about how much time they are on the internet

  • Seek Professional Support


As with any addiction, early recognition of the symptoms means that treatment can begin before it gets worse. Typically, teens with an internet addiction struggle with seeing how their time online is affecting their lifestyle. This is because they may feel as though they have more friends than they ever did before, or they may try to justify their actions by believing that researching online is a learning opportunity. Your teen may also claim that they could be doing worse things such as drugs. Since they are usually sitting safely within their home, teens with internet addiction often take longer than other teens to admit that there is a problem. For this reason, professional therapists often begin treatment by helping teens see the negative effects of their addiction. For example, learning that being online all night is contributing to their bad grades helps them get on board with ending their addiction.

Treat Coexisting Mental Health Conditions

Teens become addicted to the internet for a variety of reasons. For some, it offers a way to meet other people despite having social anxiety. Other teens may use the internet as a route to escape the pain of grieving or the apathy of depression. Figuring out your teen’s triggers for using the internet will often reveal other mental health conditions. Treating these conditions is critical for helping your teen successfully beat their addiction.

Encourage Healthy Recreational Opportunities

Once your teen has completed their treatment for internet addiction, they will need your help finding ways to fill their time. In their program, they learned how to utilize their interests to find recreational activities such as acting in a play or hiking in the mountains that reduce their drive to go online. Encourage your child to continue to explore their new interests, and plan special activities to keep them on track. For example, enrolling them in an art class or planning a family camping trip will help your teen remember that offline experiences can be even better than anything they can find online.

The internet brought to the world wonderful ways to connect and learn. Yet, many teens are falling prey to the vices of internet addiction. When you suspect there is a problem, it is important to go with your instincts and seek help because this type of addiction quickly spirals out of control. By recognizing that internet addiction is indeed real and seeking support, your teen can learn to manage their impulses through healthy activities that support their development.