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 help.
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.