Child Psychology: Understanding Mental Health in Children
The ability to be upfront about how we’re feeling is a constructive step towards a collective acceptance and understanding of mental health. In many cases, this helps to alleviate the daunting sense of isolation that depression and anxiety can so often evoke – for adults, at least.
But what happens when your child is experiencing these equally damaging mental health problems? In this article, we’ll look at why understanding child psychology is so important. We’ll discuss the symptoms of mental health problems in children, and what to do when your child seems depressed or anxious.
Raising Awareness of Child Psychology
Children are often left out of the picture when it comes to media portrayals of mental health; and as parents, we may subconsciously ‘shield’ them from exposure to such issues. Adults and teenagers are becoming much more open about their mental health; just as they would be about certain elements of their physical health. Why don’t we aim to enhance our awareness of mental health conditions in children?
Since children haven’t yet developed the ability to express their emotions quite as clearly as adults can, it’s only natural that their mental health symptoms can surface in seemingly disconnected ways. Even as adults, many of us cannot accurately portray our mental health concerns with words alone. Considering this, we think it’s crucial to understand how and why children struggle even more when it comes to explaining how they feel.
Communication & Mental Health in Children
We know our children can find it hard to explain exactly what they mean anyway. Not only that, but as parents, we find it hard to understand what they mean, too. It’s a two-way street, a learning curve for both parties.
Often, this is an age-dependent frustration that improves as the linguistic and communication skills of children naturally evolve with time. Their development in this area can depend on their exposure to certain situations, the types of media they consume, the people they engage with, and the places they go to. Encouraging socialisation with peers, providing adequate cognitive development opportunities, and supporting a healthy learning environment – these all helps us nurture effective communication strategies in our children as they grow.
While most children develop these skills with time, there is an indisputable focus on teaching communication skills related to physical needs– not mental needs.This is why, despite their age, children can struggle to explain how they are feeling with regards to more abstract situations such as mental health. We know that if their tummy hurts, they can point to their tummy. They can situate the pain, informing us why they’re upset or acting out.With mental health, however, it’s very difficult for a child to identify the source of their anguish.
Symptoms of Anxiety in Children
The symptoms of anxiety in children often manifest in unexpected ways that we, as adults and parents, wouldn’t immediately associate with anxiety. The symptoms that arise may depend on the age of your child. In younger children, physical symptoms of anxiety often manifest. Older children may seem to show more ‘recognisable’ signs of depression, as they are able to explain symptoms and the link these symptoms have to their mental health.
- Feeling sick or having tummy aches, with no other discernible cause
- Avoidance of school, finding excuses not to socialise with friends
- Unexplainable anger or aggression
- Lack of appetite, refusing to eat
- Nightmares, wetting the bed
- Struggling to fall asleep or waking in the night
- Inability to concentrate, i.e., in school
- Being overly clingy
- Constantly seeking reassurance that everything is ok
- Frequent toilet use
- Panic attacks – symptoms in children may include the expression of overwhelming fears related to mortality, a lack of control over life, feeling too cold or too hot (sweating), nausea and vomiting, breathing difficulties, dizziness, a racing heartbeat, chest pain, shaking or trembling and dissociation (feeling detached from reality).
Younger children have a hard time explaining their worries about certain symptoms, like how they feel when they have a panic attack. While physical symptoms of a panic attack are somewhat visible, what the child is thinking is not. For example, the sensation of dissociating from your environment and those around you is extremely concerning for most. However, this may become a ‘usual’ experience for a child who dissociates during a panic attack. As the issue recurs, the child may think it is normal that this happens to them. They may then try to bring up the problem in casual conversation, albeit using only the feelings and terms they have learned to express.
These signs alone are not always indicative of childhood anxiety. It’s important to recognise that each child is different in terms of their temperament and personality. Some children are naturally more reserved than others, as they may not be so confident. Others may struggle to concentrate in school, which could be a sign of anxiety – although they may be unable to concentrate due to other conditions such as ADHD instead. In especially young children, clinginess can be normal, though a refusal to socialise with peers at all might mean they are feeling intense levels of anxiety.
There’s a growing sense of collective acknowledgement that mental health issues need to be discussed more within society. Medical professionals, organisations, individuals, and even brands are pushing for people to talk about their thoughts, overcoming the unfortunate stigmas that have been so unjustly attached to psychological medical conditions – for adults. We take a serious stance regarding our belief that child psychology is equally as important as adult psychology. We’re here to help relieve at least some of the stressors that can arise as your family grows.
If you think your child is experiencing mental health difficulties, we’re here for that very reason. As a private child psychologist and therapy team, we are specialists in providing emotional support and therapy solutions for adults, children, and families. Our dynamic approach to child psychology means there are plenty of options to explore when it comes to finding the ideal treatment, and we tailor our approach to your needs. Your child’s best interests are our best interests. This is why whenever we do discover that an alternative psychologist or type of therapy would further benefit your family, we point you in their direction instead.
Due to our dedication in enlightening people on what we do here at The Vyas-Lee Practice, we’ve curated a range of our blog posts for you to have a look through. You can read more about what we do here.
If you’d like to discuss what we can do for your family in helping you to diagnose, understand and help alleviate difficulties with your child’s mental health, get in touch with us.
- Dynamic, private child psychologist-therapist team
- Specialist emotional support & therapy
- A broad experience in working with individuals from various cultures
- Adult one-to-one therapy
- Tailored child & family work
- Work with children & adults
- Private child psychologist
- London-based child psychologist
- Approachable, inclusive & positive
- Not elite child psychologists – intimidating, exclusive
- Friendly, normal communication styles
- Refreshing, positive experience
- De-stressed upon leaving, finding the investment in your family’s mental health completely worthwhile
- Range of well-evidenced therapies, professional guidance helpful
- Professionals take hours, usually 20 mins, to decide which form of treatment is best for your individual situation
- Transparent, helpful, assisting you to understand – even if you don’t end up using our therapy services
Keyword: Child Psychology
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Does My Child Need Therapy?
As parents, many would agree it’s difficult to understand why our children behave in certain ways at the best of times.
Cultivating an increased awareness as to why child psychology and mental health is just as vital to consider as adult psychology is very important to us.