by Douglas L. Anderson, PsyD
We have different ways of tracking time and seasons. Here are some favorites:
- We have two seasons, Winter and August.
- We have two seasons, Winter and 4th of July.
- We have two seasons, Winter and Road Construction.
- How about this schedule? We have four seasons, planting prep, planting, harvesting prep, harvesting.
But the most common way of tracking time seems to be Summer and School Year, the two seasons that impact family life the most.
And here we are, closing in on the end of August and the beginning of another school year. We often see childhood mental health issues emerge around this time of year because of the stress of starting a new school year.
The CDC defines kids mental health this way: “Being mentally healthy during childhood means reaching developmental and emotional milestones and learning healthy social skills and how to cope when there are problems. Mentally healthy children have a positive quality of life and can function well at home, in school, and in their communities.”
The most common mental disorders we see in kids are Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), anxiety disorders (excessive worry and fear), and behavior disorders. We also sometimes see learning and developmental disabilities, autism (on a continuum of severity), and risk factors like substance use and self harm behaviors.
When your child is struggling with any kind of mental health disorder your child’s ability to learn gets impacted, and your child’s social relationships get impacted. Attend to your child’s mental health needs, and get help for your child as soon as you notice an unusual or abnormal level of struggle.
We often think of children as being very resilient, able to go through tough times and bounce back. And sometimes it seems like that is the case in the immediate moment. But what research and the experience of therapists who work with kids (and adults, for that matter) tell us is that the impact of difficulty in childhood years often shows up later in life.
For example, we know that children can sometimes appear to weather parental divorce quite well. But what we therapists often see is a young adult struggling with trust issues in relationships because they experienced parental divorce when they were young.
If we do a good job of taking care of our children’s mental health during times of family difficulty, during times of regional, national, and global trauma, and in the case of such issues like ADHD and other psychological issues, then we will greatly increase any child’s opportunity to more successfully navigate life’s challenges.
As the school year gets rolling, pay close attention to your children, to their progress, to their level of worry, to their friendships, and to the relationship you and your child have. If you have reason for concern, reach out to someone for assistance and counsel on what to do. Some of the best people to reach out to include teachers, school counselors, pediatricians, and mental health professionals.
If you want to find useful information on child mental health online, look at sites like the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institute of Mental Health. You can also look at sites like the American Psychological Association, the American Counseling Association, and other professional associations or institutes.
If your child has difficulty as we climb into a new school year and could use some help, give us a call. We have competent and caring therapists in all four of our locations - River Counseling Services in Platte, Sioux Falls Psychological Services, and Stronghold Counseling Services in Sioux Falls and in Yankton - who will meet you where you are, offering hope. That is our mission. You may schedule an appointment at the Platte office at 605-337-3444 or meet with one of our Sioux Falls or Yankton based therapists from your computer, smartphone, or in person at any of our clinics. To schedule an appointment, please call 605-334-2696.