Children’s Mental Health

two young girls looking at a puddle

Life can have challenges for people of all ages – including children and youth. Children as young as 4 or 5 can show signs of mental health challenges and youth up to 17 years may be facing serious disorders. A variety of conditions and concerns may prompt you to seek help for your young child, or your teenage child. Dealing with minors is different from treating adults. In the past, children were simply perceived as smaller versions of adults. This way of thinking did not contribute to their development, but thankfully psychologist Jean Piaget pioneered child psychology and confirmed that indeed – children think differently from adults. It’s important that parents adapt this way of thinking and consider that their children have different needs based on their age. Children and youth see the world from another perspective and face many challenges for the first time. In the process of growing up children often have trouble coping at some time (at home, at school, with divorce and separation, with other children, etc.), or they exhibit behaviours which concern or alarm their parents or teachers. Some children face more problems than others, depending on their home or school situation, and sometimes due to biological or inherited conditions. Others face psychological disorders that parents may not notice or do not want to acknowledge.

Children that have been involved in traumatic situations can sometimes be left unable to cope with what just happened. A loss of a close loved one, such as a parent or grandparent, a difficult divorce, natural disasters, and other traumas can all have a tremendous impact on that child or youth’s mental health and overall well-being.

Some issues your child may be facing today include:

  • Adoption Issues
  • Divorce and separation
  • Communication difficulties
  • Peer pressure
  • Sibling rivalry
  • Extended family difficulties
  • Mixed family Issues
  • Bullying
  • Learning disorders
  • Peer relationships
  • Sexual Issues

Symptoms & Signs of Mental Health Challenges in your Child

Emotional symptoms

  • Overwhelming fears of things that are normally not seen as scary
  • Lack of appetite
  • Regressing to a younger, or infantile state
  • Lack of concentration
  • Trouble performing in school
  • False sense of bravado
  • Mood changes
  • Behaviour changes
  • Common emotional symptoms of anxiety or depression
  • A sudden change in marks or performance
  • Damaging behaviour (to self, others or property)
  • Acting withdrawn and uninterested in the world around them
  • Trouble with the law or at school

Physical symptoms

  • Nightmares
  • Lack of appetite or overeating
  • Lack of concentration
  • Headaches
  • Frequent stomach aches
  • Self harm
  • Changes in sleeping habits
  • Common physical symptoms of anxiety or depression
  • Substance use (youth)

When is it time to get help?

If you notice your child is exhibiting some of the symptoms listed above, and their daily activities are being affected, or if you notice mood or personality changes, see their marks suddenly drop or a decline in their performance on sports teams or at other activities, are alerted by a teacher or coach’s concerns, or if your child just seems to be “off’ it may be time to seek help.

Treatment methods for children

  • Art Therapy allows children and youth to use their imagination to explore their feelings and thoughts and to visually express those thoughts and emotions. Young people, when their motor skills exceed their verbal skills, get more out of art therapy than talk therapy alone. Like Play Therapy, Art Therapy is a form of non-verbal communication that allows children and youth to express themselves.
  • Play Therapy refers to a large number of treatment methods, all of which make use of one or more of the natural benefits of play. Play allows children a safe psychological distance from their problems and allows them to express their true thought and feelings in ways best suited to their developmental level.
  • Psychotherapy is a broad term that encompasses numerous styles of therapy and employs verbal or nonverbal communication with a client to help treat psychiatric problems, behavioral issues, personality disorders, and various other types of emotional distress. This form of personal counselling is based on an interpersonal relationship, as opposed to the alternative chemical or physical forms of therapy. As the therapist creates dialogue, you are able to learn more about your moods, behavior, feelings, and thoughts. Understanding these factors helps you to control your life and handle certain situations healthily.

What will my child get out of treatment with Insight Psychological?

Getting to the root of the issue is the first step in helping your child work through the stressors, challenges and/or traumatic situations they may be experiencing. An evaluation by one of the licensed therapists at Insight Psychological will be done to determine the best types of therapy for your child. Parents also tend to approach child psychologists if they are concerned about their child’s developmental or cognitive functioning. Evaluating your child is nothing to be ashamed of; in fact, knowing if your child has a condition or not, allows you to plan your child’s education. Children with special needs may require special education, which will depend on the degree of their condition(s).Our child psychologists also treat children after traumatic events. If the child has just lost a parent or family member, or has been abused, it is advisable to have them see a psychologist. Professional help will allow the child to process the traumatic event, and transition into the new changes in their life.