For most children and teenagers, summertime means freedom from school and excitement for no homework, more playtime and all the possibilities for the longer days … but that is not the case for all kids. For some, the long days of summer can be a time when behavioral health issues may need to be tended to more than usual with the lack of structured daily activity, more time spent at home, less time interacting with friends and lack of direction.
All children are at risk of depression, anxiety, ADHD and other behavior disorders. In fact, one in six young children aged just 2-8 years have a diagnosed mental, behavioral or developmental disorder, and the risk increases as children age.
Shuntai Walker, a Licensed Professional Counselor with Hamilton Community Health Network in Flint, treats both kids and adults. When it comes to a child’s mental health, she suggests parents or caretakers keep these signs in mind:
Anxiety in children can present in many ways, but the most common include having more tantrums, difficulty sleeping, and frequently wanting to stay in the house or becoming extremely attached to you.
Depression can often be noticeable if your child is displaying weight changes, sleeping more, losing interest in their previously enjoyed activities, or distancing themselves. “If this is happening,” Walker says, “now is the time to see a professional to get them help. Untreated depression can be deadly.”
ADHD can feel overwhelming for parents, but it is even more overwhelming for children. Therapy can help them manage their hyperactivity, learn how to work through their thoughts, and have other positive effects.
Walker suggests, “If you see these changes happening this summer, do not delay seeking treatment. There are various resources available in our community, including Hamilton Community Health Network.” While waiting for your scheduled appointment, start implementing some mindfulness practices into your child’s days.
Her suggestions include:
- Be in tune – Take 15 minutes out of your day to simply close your eyes and just be present within yourselves and relax.
- Breathe – Yes, we breathe all day long; but take some long, deep breaths for a few minutes. Let yourselves feel it, let your shoulders and diaphragm rise and fall.
- Be Crafty – Letting your mind focus on art or craft projects can be beneficial as you are focused, yet can allow your mind to wander.
- Check in – Talk with your child every day; real conversations about how they’re feeling, their thoughts or worries will establish trust with them and let you know how they are feeling.
- Set a schedule – When kids know what to expect, it alleviates worry.
- Get outside – Enjoy the fresh air and sunshine, a natural healer for all ages.
If you or your child needs help, call your healthcare provider or the Behavioral Health team at Hamilton Community Health Network today. Visit HamiltonCHN.org or call 810.406.4246.