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Don't be blind, see the signs

Posted by Mr Yusuf on 16 December 2020
The holidays are fast approaching, which means many of our students will be enjoying the free time they worked hard to earn throughout this year. However, not all people view the holiday break in the same way. For some, it could be a time where they are left alone with their negative thoughts, with nothing to distract them from the bad headspace they find themselves in.

It is important that parents recognise signs of distress in their child. Especially during extended periods of time when the child is stuck at home, in their room, scrolling through social media and the internet. You might be asking why is this so important?

For two main reasons. The first is because staying in a small space like a bedroom for long periods of time can have an impact on an individual's mental wellbeing. Secondly, when a child stays away from their family for a long time, parents may not be aware of the psychological difficulties their child is experiencing. This can become a serious problem in the future, as untreated psychological symptoms can create greater impacts and be longer lasting the more time it is given to fester and grow.

So, what can you do during the holiday break to make sure your child is enjoying it as much as they can? The first thing is to be aware of the signs, this is especially true for the two most common psychological difficulties, depression and anxiety.

Signs of depression:

Changes in your child's emotions or behaviour:

- seems sad or unhappy most of the time
- is aggressive, won't do what you ask most of the time, or has a lot of temper tantrums
- says negative things about themselves for example, 'I'm not good at anything' or 'No-one at school likes me'
- feels guilty for example, they might say things like 'It's always my fault'
- is afraid or worried a lot
- keeps saying their tummy or head hurts, and these problems don't seem to have a physical or medical cause.

Changes in your child's interest in everyday activities:

- don't have as much energy as they usually do
- doesn't want to be around friends and family
- aren't interested in playing or doing other things they used to enjoy
- has problems sleeping, including nightmares
- has problems concentrating or remembering things.

Changes in your child's behaviour or academic performance at school:

- isn't going so well academically
- isn't taking part in school activities
- has problems fitting in at school or getting along with other children.
Depression affects children's thinking, mood and behaviour. Children experiencing depression often feel negative about themselves, their situation and their future. They can feel hopeless.

Somethings you can do to help your child include:

-       Speaking and interacting with them often. Depression leads its victim to isolate themselves from those around them. By making yourself available to your child to speak to and by engaging in conversation with your child, you are able to bring them out of their isolating behaviour. You can talk about the struggles they are experiencing, as well as any other subject that may be of interest to them.
-       Do not be judgemental when speaking with your child. They already would have a negative opinion of themselves, by judging them, you may reinforce their negative self-perception which can make them feel worse.
-       Give your child a daily routine of things they enjoy doing. Depression makes people stay in bed doing nothing. By isolating themselves and having nothing to do, depressed people are left with their thoughts. Because their thoughts are negative and self-critical, it makes their depression worse. Which is why they need a daily activity schedule which will take their focus out of their mind and into the world around them.
-       Seek professional help. You can always speak with your GP about a Mental Healthcare Plan which will help your child recover.

For more resources, please follow the links below:

https://kidshelpline.com.au/parents/issues/depression-kids-and-teens

https://healthyfamilies.beyondblue.org.au/age-6-12/mental-health-conditions-in-children/depression-in-children

Signs of anxiety:

- try to avoid the situation or issue they're worried about
- get headaches and stomach aches often, especially when away from home
- have trouble sleeping or have vivid nightmares
- worry often
- need a lot of reassurance
- want things to be perfect and get upset if they're not

Somethings you can do to help your child include:

-       talk to your child about their fears and comfort them
-       prevent exposure to their fears and triggers where possible
-       encourage positive thinking
-       help your child overcome their fears by slowly exposing them to what causes them anxiety
-       seek professional help. You can always speak with your GP about a Mental Healthcare Plan which will help your child recover.

For more resources, please follow the links below:

https://kidshelpline.com.au/anxiety

https://healthyfamilies.beyondblue.org.au/age-6-12/mental-health-conditions-in-children/anxiety

https://www.beyondblue.org.au/personal-best/pillar/supporting-others/how-to-support-your-anxious-child

It is important to note that your child does not have to display all of these signs to have depression of anxiety. If they display a few of these, there is a chance that they have fallen victim to these conditions.

Remember to enjoy your time with the kids, while also being vigilant for any signs of distress.

Author:Mr Yusuf
Tags:Counsellor

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