04 May Caring for Your Child’s Mental Health
One of the most concerning aspects of child development is the effects of early childhood trauma, both short-term and long-term.
Being able to grasp this allows parents to take appropriate action that will spare their child from further harm. A good place to start would be to learn what child mental health definition is.
How Childhood Trauma Shapes Children
Trauma that occurs in the early stages of a child’s development can severely impact his mental health and can cause deep, emotional scars that never really goes away.
One thing that most child psychologists agree on is that childhood trauma is never cured completely. Victims can learn to cope and manage the effects, but it is never forgotten unless the events are suppressed by their own minds.
Even then, behavioral changes can still be expected on a subconscious level. Among the most common symptoms that can occur following early childhood trauma are:
- Increased anxiety
- Difficulty sleeping
- Fear of being left alone
- Being skittish of sudden noise
- Overreacting to changes
- Sudden bouts of crying
- Loss of appetite
- Mood swings
- Night terrors
- Aggressive behavior
- Increased suspicion
- Trouble interacting with others
- Difficulty performing in school
There are other signs that accompany childhood trauma, but those are the most prominent and the easiest to take note of.
If your child is experiencing or displaying any of those, your best course of action would be to consult a childhood psychologist right away for preliminary evaluations, at least.
This would make sure that you know what to expect and what you can do to help your child. It is always better to have all of the facts that can help you take action and help your child.
It’s also worth pointing out that the best thing that you can do when your child has had a traumatic experience is to be there for them.
Being understanding, patient, and calm is essential, as well, since your child will need to have unshakeable faith in you and your continued presence in his life no matter what.
Important Aspects of Children’s Mental Health
When childhood trauma is involved, it is practically expected that there will be a considerable amount of work that will go into not only managing it but also in preventing further damage.
Even months or years after the event that triggered the emotional and mental turmoil, your child will still likely be sensitive to the wrong words, actions, images, sounds, and even smells.
Maintaining your child’s mental health will be all about heading those off and an important step is understanding children’s needs in order to have good mental health.
A good place to start would be by keeping the following in mind:
- Children need constant love, warmth, understanding, and reassurance.
- Children need to have interests that will engage their minds and passions.
- Children need to learn new things that will enrich their minds.
- Children need to be around other children and form bonds.
- Children recover quickly but are also more sensitive to physical and mental damage.
- Children’s self-esteem is fragile and needs reinforcement.
- Children need to feel secure and stable.
- Children are sensitive to dramatic changes in the moods and behavior of adults.
- Children understand more than many adults think, albeit in a more abstract basis.
These will still be true when your child goes through a traumatic experience and they will be more important than ever in order to help him manage the impact.
Providing a safe, stable, and consistent environment is the first important step. After that, you can move on to introducing small changes that he can see and tolerate.
Activities to Help Overcome Trauma
It’s important for you and your child to do something together for the purpose of helping him cope with his trauma until it becomes more manageable.
Through a few simple activities, this can be achieved. You can start with the following:
Making a security blanket
When your child has just experienced a traumatic experience, one of the first things that they are going to feel is missing is the feeling of security.
Your child will not feel safe, which makes this a high priority to recover. Apart from all of the obvious other steps you could take, making a security blanket would be a good one.
This is basically where you take fabrics with prints that contain multiple images of his favorite heroes, characters, and symbols that make him feel strong and secure.
You then create a blanket from these that he will help with, either with his input or by actually helping to sew. This way, he can start feeling like taking back a bit of control.
Setting cuddling times
Cuddles always make children feel safe and secure, even when they sometimes act like they don’t like it.
After a traumatic incident, your child will need even more hugs and cuddles than ever before. While it’s good to give it to them at any time, it helps to have a set schedule for it.
This does a few things. One is that it reminds you to do it, no matter what. Another reason is to give your child that sense of security in knowing that he will get cuddles no matter what.
Writing letters to their future selves
Having your child relay his experiences, feelings, and thoughts to his future self basically allows him to inspect his current state of mind.
By writing a letter with his wishes, goals, and hopes, he can then start to acknowledge what needs to happen going forward.
Keeping a journal
A journal might seem like an old trick but this is because it still works. Keeping a personal record of what he is experiencing allows him to see how far he has come.
He will see how he is better than yesterday, which means that he can be better tomorrow.
All in all, trauma can have a huge impact on your child and you can certainly help him cope with it until he can finally overcome the condition. Be informed and provide him with all the care, attention, and love he needs, and he will be okay.
You can read all about this and more with the other resources we have at this site. You can learn about motivating your child, making him emotionally stronger, and giving him powerful affirmations.