The mental health of adults is often rooted in the kind of childhood they led. There are many adults who suffer from psychological issues that stem from the treatment they received from their parents and peers. It can be devastating for a child to experience emotional trauma at a young age as they are very impressionable and their minds retain most of the information they receive at that time. Some of the common issues faced by children and teenagers are bullying, eating disorders, peer pressure and body image issues. Fortunately, with timely interventions the long-term damage can be minimized.
Many schools have anti-bullying rules in place, but in practice these can be ineffective. Bullies often corner their victims in groups or threaten them from reporting the incident to the authorities or their parents. These scare tactics further aggravate the fear that manifests itself in later stages.
• According to a study, around half of all children have been subjected to bullying at school. However, bullying can also happen at home, on the streets by strangers or online.
• Bullying can traumatise a child, leading to depression, self-injury, anti-social behaviour and even suicidal tendencies. They start to harbour negative feelings towards others and retreat into a shell, which can affect their mental growth.
Children may not admit outright to their problem but if parents and teachers are aware of warning signs, they can nip the problem in the bud.
Solution: Parents and teachers should watch out for signs of depression, sudden isolation, decreased interest in hobbies, scars or marks and reduced social interactions. Children may not admit outright to their problem but if parents and teachers are aware of warning signs, they can nip the problem in the bud and counsel their children. Reporting the bullies to the school authorities or their parents is also important as the bullies themselves might be going through some emotional problems which makes them act out.
Body Image Issues
The standards of beauty represented by the media can often lead to children and teenagers to develop negative feelings towards their bodies. It doesn't help that even adults and peers make comments comparing the child to others. Children may think they are too fat, too skinny, have bad hair or disproportionate facial structures. This may lead to body image issues.
• They fail to realise that factors such as genetics, environment and puberty are the reasons behind their body's structure, which cannot be changed naturally. Today, even teens are opting for cosmetic surgeries and developing eating disorders.
• In some cases they develop low self-esteem and anxiety disorders that are very difficult to get rid of.
Children should feel respected for what and who they are.
Solution: Parents should always maintain an open dialogue with their children about their bodies and the changes they go through as teenagers. They must also refrain comparing their child to others, even if it is a sibling. Children should feel respected for what and who they are. Since most people become very conscious about their bodies after reaching puberty, it is critical for them to understand that these changes are normal and everybody goes through the same experience. In some cases, if changes in weight become a medical issue, it is important to teach them how to lose or gain weight through healthy diet and exercise without being over critical.
From the moment a child learns to communicate, he or she becomes impressionable. In school, they form bonds with other kids who share their hobbies and interests. Often, they change their beliefs and values to get approval from their peer group. This is known as peer pressure. Peers determine the way a child develops their principles and actions.
• In many cases, children blindly follow others from fear of being left out from a group considered to be popular. It can force them to bully others, cut class, break rules, steal items, smoke, drink or mistreat others.
• In some cases, peer pressure can be a good thing; it can help children focus on their studies and develop healthy competition with their peers.
Teach your kids about the difference between positive and negative influence and holding their ground in the face of peer pressure...
Solution: Parents and teachers should watch out for shifts in attitude, principles and behaviour in kids and get to know the reason behind these changes. Teach your kids about the difference between positive and negative influence and holding their ground in the face of peer pressure to set them on a lifetime of confidence and high self-esteem.
Some of the most common eating disorders in teenagers are bulimia nervosa, binge eating and anorexia. Those kids who think they need to lose weight often purge after eating a meal or stop eating for long periods of time. Others may binge eat for comfort and later suffer from feelings of self-loathing. Sometimes, kids who think they are too skinny eat large quantities of food to gain weight, occasionally egged on by their parents.
• If a child is gaining or losing weight too rapidly, becoming increasingly obsessive about their looks and rushing to the washroom after every meal, it points towards eating disorders.
• They can suffer from gastrointestinal problems, tooth decay, thyroid imbalance, lowered metabolic rate and loss of muscle mass. The effects of these can be seen even years after recovery.
Solution: The best way to combat eating disorders is to ensure that the child follows a diet chart prescribed by the physician and putting an end to the binge and purge behaviour pattern. With guidance and counselling, one can lead a healthy life without eating disorders.
Childhood is the time for kids to focus on their academic and mental growth. The responsibility of parents is to guide their children to focus on constructive thoughts and understand the thin line between healthy competition and rivalry. With increasing pressure from parents and society, many kids start to stray on the wrong path, but with early intervention by watchful parents and teachers a course correction is possible.
Young Minds Matter is a new series meant to lead the conversation with children about mental and emotional health, so youngsters feel loved, valued and understood. Launched with Her Royal Highness, The Duchess of Cambridge, as guest editor, we will discuss problems, causes and most importantly solutions to the stigma surrounding the UK's mental health crisis among children. To blog on the site as part of Young Minds Matter email firstname.lastname@example.org
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