What is child mental health? What can parents do if they are worried about a child’s mental health? How can you support your child’s mental wellbeing? This innovative handbook for parents shows how a child’s mind thrives on kindness – kindness that is offered in the right way by parents who can manage their own limitations and anxieties sufficiently well to create a safe and harmonious atmosphere.
Children as well as adults are under stress due to the confusing demands and fragmentation many people experience in our society. The number of children reporting mental health problems is increasing, and at the same time most of the child mental health services that used to be available have been closed or their funding drastically reduced so that most children do not “qualify” for the right to treatment. I have seen children presenting with serious mental health issues who have been denied treatment, and parents who have no idea how their own parenting behaviours are creating problems for their children.
Parents often have no idea how to respond, or who they can turn to, when they are experiencing difficulties with their child’s behaviour, or what attitude to take when a child is unhappy, upset, withdrawn or struggling with an issue such as eating problems, bullying, self harm, anxiety, depression or low self esteem. These issues are present among every group of school age children, but many parents have little information or understanding about how to deal with them.
Many parents are struggling with the devastating issues faced by split families and court involvement with the family. Children and young people, with conditions ranging from dyslexia to AHDD and autistic spectrum disorders, do not receive timely support from educational health or social services. Teenagers or young adults who are struggling with serious emotional difficulties, need insightful support.
So how can we respond, and what can we do? As parents we do have the most important resource that is ever available, and that is our personal relationship with our child.
Most of all, children want their relationship with you to be alright. Even if this is troubled, we can get help and find ways to improve it. A good relationship with your son or daughter will help you get through all kinds of difficulties and is the base you both really need. However this I easier said than done if you are challenged by difficult behaviour from your child, or if you yourself did not experience a warm, safe, kind and consistent relationship with your own parents, and so you don’t have it in you to pass this on. The key is that you have to hold the mindset of being the adult, and realise the enormous opportunity you have to give your child a secure and happy base, no matter how difficult every day life can be.
Dr Joanna North has written this accessible guidebook for every parent who really wants guidance, insight and support as to what to do when things are challenging at any of the different stages of childhood, from baby and toddler to teenager and young adult. Dr North helps you to think about your child and your relationship with him or her in a way that will enable you to make immediate improvements that your child will definitely notice. It will help you get clear about many popular misconceptions about parenting that have confused so many people. She describes common parenting errors, and how to address them. She shows how your behaviours, communications and attitudes towards your child create the results you want, or do not want, to happen as they grow older. She shows how it is never too late to make improvements in your parenting – and when you read the book you will want to make those improvements because you will, for the first time, understand how your style of parenting affects your child.
This is the friendliest and most readable guide to children’s mental health you are ever going to find – it’s written by an experienced psychotherapist in plain language, but it does not talk down to you or oversimplify the complexities. Dr North makes it clear for everyone who does not have a mental health background what a child’s emotional and mental wellbeing is, what it is based upon, and how you can support and increase it through simple changes in your understanding, communications and responses. She has created models that are easy to remember and use in the moment, when you are with your child. Through reading the book, you will be able to see the world more as your child sees it, and you will have the insights of an experienced mental health professional at your fingertips. This will empower you to become more accurately attuned to your children’s emotional and mental health needs and face any problems directly. It will help you understand your own difficulties in parenting, and make it much easier for you to change them.
By the end of the book you will be much, much clearer about what you can do to support the healthy emotional and mental growth and development of your child, or any child you work with or care for. This is an essential guide for parents.