For Healthy Families, Good Mental Health is Vital.
At CIP, we know that healthy families are key to a vibrant
community. Nurturing parents encourage children's natural
curiosity and growth, thus preparing them for the learning
and social interactions that school provides. They take
a keen interest in their children's progress, providing
the care and attention young children need to thrive.
Healthy families make possible the wealth of opportunities
a community can offer.
While we are all aware of the benefits of a healthy
lifestyle for physical well being, the importance of
sound mental health is often overlooked, yet it is vital
to all aspects of a productive and fulfilling life.
It's important for parents to realize that they can
take steps to safeguard their families' emotional health
and well being.
Mental health resembles physical health in several
important ways. One is that no one is immune from the
development of a mental health condition-in fact, 50%
of all Americans will experience at least one in their
lives. Another parallel is that timely, expert care
can make the difference in both the duration and severity
of the condition; while many emotional problems will
not just "go away," but worsen, prompt attention
can often resolve an issue before a problem even develops.
Finally, mental health, like physical health, exists
on a continuum: Some conditions are severe and chronic,
while others are temporary and mild.
All children have some emotional issues from time to
time, perhaps anxiety over a change, such as a new school
or a change in the family, perhaps shyness or trouble
separating from parents. It is important to realize
that such situations are normal, that extra reassurance
and attention can help a child regain equilibrium. When
issues such as these do not easily resolve, it is best
to seek professional advice-from your child's teacher
or pediatrician, or a psychotherapist-before behaviors
become entrenched, or lead to other difficulties.
Parents' own emotional health plays a large role in
raising healthy children. Some adults find that their
own childhood experiences, perhaps past abuse or a difficult
family, can interfere with their ability to be as present
with children as they would like. Anger and conflict
management may pose a challenge, as can mood disorders,
such as anxiety. In recent years, maternal depression
has received increasing attention. Mothers and fathers
need to realize that taking care of their own emotional
health is an integral part of caring for their children.
If you have concerns, don't be afraid to seek professional
It is often in the school setting that the first signs
that a child may be struggling will appear. These include
slipping grades, difficulty getting along with others,
bullying, or other acting out behaviors. For this reason,
CIP's Schools Project for Disadvantaged Students at
Risk is among our most important and valued outreach
programs. Students are referred by school personnel
and receive one-on-one therapy on a weekly basis throughout
the school year, or participate in a weekly therapy
group. This early intervention has consistently proven
to help students in all areas of functioning, and even
to carry over to the benefit of their families.
It is not uncommon for children's difficulties at school
to be a symptom of problems in the home, such as parental
substance abuse or family conflict. For many troubled
families, their child's referral to the Schools Project
is the first step in receiving the support they need
to create a better, healthier home for all members.