While October is traditionally known for Halloween and spooky costumes, it is also a
month that shines a light on mental health. Through awareness efforts such as Mental
Illness Awareness Week and World Mental Health Day, October is charged with helping
others feel ok about saying they are not ok.
As a parent, it can be tough to acknowledge that your child may be struggling with
mental health. School, extracurricular activities, friendships, and the daily struggle to fit
in can be stressful. Is your child handling it ok, or does forgetting an assignment, missing
the bus, and keeping up with homework continuously put your child on edge?
These stresses are real, and these situations can happen. They can also be highly
detrimental to the success of your child throughout the academic year. As a parent, you
can help by promoting healthy stress management tactics, so children learn how to
manage tension and understand they are not alone in it.
Some teens become overloaded with stress. When it happens, inadequately
managed stress can lead to anxiety, withdrawal, aggression, physical illness, or poor
coping skills such as drug and alcohol use.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, around half of all teens
will have abused an illicit drug at least once by their senior year in high school. One in
four had their first alcoholic drink by age 12.
As a parent, you can help your child manage stress by encouraging them to:
take time for self-care.
take assignments one step at a time
set obtainable goals
and stay balanced during exam periods
If your child needs to decompress and relieve stress, remind them to
Exercise. Regular exercise is one of the best ways to keep stress levels under
Learn ways to relax your body through meditation, massage, and breathing
Practice positive self-talk.
Talk to a friend or loved one.
Make the best out of stressful circumstances – be optimistic – your outlook,
attitude, and thoughts influence how you see things.
Ask for help. People who have a strong network of family and friends manage
Stress keeps us focused and aware of all the things that need to be done. It can motivate a
person to study harder and complete assignments and projects on time. But when stress
levels become more than a motivating tool, or when pressures are too intense or last too
long, your child may be in stress overload. Signs of overload may include:
Anxiety or panic attacks
Irritability and moodiness
Physical symptoms such as stomach problems, headaches, or even chest pain
Allergic reactions, such as eczema or asthma
Sadness or depression
Being a parent can be tough, and it can also bring joy and great rewards. If you’re feeling
a little lost and need some support, we’re here to help.
Sarah Guertin, MSW, LCSW, is a program director with Southwest Behavioral & Health
Services’ school-based programs. More information about school and community-based
counseling services is available at https://www.sbhservices.org/school-based
RELATED: Online tools for mental health