What is children mental health?

Our ancestors living in the Antiquity were very aware of the relation between mental and physical health. Aristotle was one of the first people that strongly believed that emotions can affect our health. Modern society tended to separate and deny the relation between mental and physical health; however, many scientists have recently changed the trend. There is today scientific evidence proving that emotional, psychological and social wellbeing affects our physical health. In this article, we are going to understand what mental health is and why it’s important to take good care of the mental health of our children.

1.What is mental health?
Very simply, mental health is what we feel and think. Psychology and emotions determine our behaviors and actions. Usually, psychology and emotions are affected by our life experiences, education, family environment and some biological factors. A common example of a real-life situation is how we handle criticism. Do you take it personally and feel that you need to defend yourself? Or do you take it objectively and take a step to change the weakness you have if that criticism turns out to be valid? How you react to criticism is determined by your mental health.

2.How can mental health affect children development?
Mental health is important in every stage of our lives, including childhood. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), mental health affects the development of children on the physical and social level. For example, if a chubby kid is always bullied, he will be with time withdrawn socially, which might lead him to be shy or to be aggressive. On the other hand, he might lose confidence in himself and not like to do any physical exercise. His extra kilograms might turn into obesity or even diabetes after some time.

3.How do I know that my child has some mental health issues?
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (UK), a child suffers from mental health issues if he/she has unwanted behaviors that are dangerous or that are a sign of insecurity (for example your child is hurting himself, doesn’t play with his peers, not showing any interest in any activity, sleeping a lot/not enough, intentionally hurting others, etc.). If these behaviors persevere for a couple of weeks, seeking professional advice (from a psychologist for example is recommended). Sometimes, mental health issues in children are expressed through persistent difficulties at school, especially in academic achievements.

4.How to deal with my child’s mental health issues?
The sooner you intervene to help your child overcome his mental health issues, the better. As parents, we can start talking about our child’s issues with the teacher or doctor in order to start taking some corrective actions. If the issue is big or if the corrective action is not effective, psychologist’s support will be needed.

5.How to take good care of my child’s mental health?
While our child explores himself and the world, we parents might not be able to protect him/her from some external factors. However, your child needs your support to constantly feel safe and loved. The key for this is effective communication. Always talk with your child to understand how he/she thinks and his/her emotions.

The biggest support we parents can offer to our children is to understand them well. If your child feels that his/her parents understand them, he/she will automatically feel loved and safe.

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Dr. Reem Khalaf Bachelor of Pharmacy and Biotechnology (German University in Cairo) instagram account : babychef_eg
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