Mental Health, Parenting, self esteem in children

Find some “creative time”…don’t let Life’s stressors get to your kids!!

Childhood is a time of creativity, free thinking, and discovering oneself in this great big world.   As parents it is our responsibility to provide an environment for our children to have fun, smile, laugh and run around just being kids. Kids should have the opportunity to explore and play with smiles on their faces while laughing with friends.  This is the beautiful mental image of childhood, but not everyone’s childhood….

Creating an environment that allows for exploration and creativity allows children to learn by maneuvering and managing through their world.  Children discover new things about the world just by exploring  every day situations.  As a child grows older and their world expands, they are exposed to more of the “real world”.  Children depend on their parents to protect them from the stressors life in this “real world” has to offer.

Recently, I have been seeing children that have stomach aches, headaches, are acting out in school, having anger issues, suffering from bullying, and/or are dealing with dysfunctional family issues.  Most of these children have one thing in common, they don’t know how to cope with the hurdles that life is putting in front of them.  Parents have a  responsibility to help their children learn how to navigate and cope with the world they live in.  

Did you know that 5% of all children and adolescents suffer from depression or anxiety problems, that’s 1 out of every 20 children.  That is one child out of every classroom! WOW!  Another unfortunate statistic I’m going to share with you is that only 25% of these children get help for their mood disorder. This is sad, and leads to problems not only for the child, but for his family and possibly others.

So, what causes mood disorders like depression and anxiety??  Chemical (neurotransmitter) imbalances in the brain are the organic cause of depression and anxiety.  These chemical imbalances can be caused by genetics, environment, and negative thought processes.  A child that is constantly surrounded by negative will have a negative thinking pattern.  A child that is surrounded by positive feelings and actions will grow up with a more positive outlook.  Children at risk for mood disorders are children that are in high stress environments.  Children worry about  peer acceptance, pressure to try drugs/drinking/sex, bullying, parental expectations, family dysfunction (arguing, divorce, etc.), normal development, school/grades, acne, and future plans, just to name a few. This is an awful lot for children to deal with while they are still learning who they are.  Teaching children to cope helps them deal with all of the stressors that they encounter.  Children that are unable to cope with stressors may act out, feel anxious, depressed, worried, down, hopeless, angry, irritable, overwhelmed, burnt out, causing  difficulty thinking, problems sleeping, headaches, and stomach aches.  This unhappiness frequently leads to depression, anxiety, substance abuse, sexual promiscuity, anger issues, violence, obesity and other health problems. So, how do we teach kids to cope??  It doesn’t happen overnight.

Coping skill for you to share with your children:

  • talk about what is going on in their world and about their thoughts and feelings
  • developing a support network of family and friends
  • live a healthy lifestyle by eating healthy, exercising, and getting enough sleep
  • write in a journal
  • change negative thoughts to positive
  • approach obstacles with small steps
  • help your child anticipate events that may cause anxiety, discuss ways to help your child feel better during these times before they happen

Helping your child build good coping skills will help to build self-confidence and increase self-esteem. Allowing children time for free thinking is important. I’ve started calling this “creative time” in our house, as this unstructured time allows creativity.  When left to explore their environment, they imagine something, and they create it. Job accomplished! It’s all about baby steps…. My kids get 30-90 minutes of free time before bed most nights.  They play in their room and do whatever they want.  Joshua is expected to find time to practice his guitar and drums, and likes to find time to read as well.  My kids love their free “creative time”.

Setting goals, formulating a plan to meet those goals, and accomplishing those goals is one of the best self esteem building experience for anyone. Accomplishment feels great!  It provides feelings of capability and confidence, and it is motivating as well.

If you have concerns that a child or teen close to you is depressed or having trouble coping, please help them get help. Sometimes listening and helping lead someone in the right direction is the most important step to helping them see a brighter future.

As you continue on this parenting journey, create goals, follow through, enjoy the feeling of accomplishment, and be an example for your children!

Remember, to succeed, you must first have a plan…

I will explore more issues with child and teen depression and anxiety in future posts.  Please click on the FOLLOW button on the right side of my page to receive updates.

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