On average, one in four children in the U.S population meet the criteria for a lifetime mental disorder. It is important to make sure that you are proactive in protecting your child’s mental health and aware of damaging everyday influences. While it is important to provide your child with the necessities, such as a loving home, positive reinforcement and a healthy diet, there are a handful of factors that usually go unnoticed, and can have a negative impact on your child’s mental health.
While the negative effects of a sugar-rich diet on your child’s physical health are widely known, the effects sugar has on a child’s mental health often go unnoticed. A diet too high in sugar can contribute to a variety of mental issues including depression, addiction, anxiety and problems with learning and memory.
Praising your children is never a bad thing; however, your child’s mental health can benefit exponentially from you specifically telling them what you want them to do instead of saying what you want. Even the use of sticker or star charts can help reinforce specific, desirable behavior, lifting your child’s confidence and encouraging good mental health.
When a child is exposed to a family member or loved one with an enduring health condition or sickness at home, they are often unable to cope with the stress and reality of the situation. This type of stress is called toxic stress and can affect the way a child’s brain develops. This is often difficult to handle when dealing with a loved on who is dying but parents who can recognize this issue early should schedule play dates, take their kids out for activities and attempt to spend as much time away from the source of toxic stress at home.
Positive stress is derived from small, everyday challenges in your child’s life such as small failures, nervousness or slight fear. These everyday interactions draw positive stress responses from your child and while they may cause him or her a small amount of stress, it also teaches crucial coping mechanisms that will provide the foundation of durable mental health.
Infections and viruses such as strep have been linked to sudden onsets of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and other behavioral problems following treatment in children. This remarkable link between virus and mental issues has been named PANS or Pediatric Acute-onset Neuropsychiatric Syndrome. To combat PANS, you should be proactive in getting infections and viruses treated as quickly and as thoroughly as possible.
It is important to promptly speak to your child’s doctor if you see enduring abnormal behavior that could be linked to a mental disorder. For more information on children’s mental disorders, visit the Riley at IU Health blog or check out Psychiatry at Riley at IU Health.