Mental health is just as important as physical health to a child's well-being.

Mental health is just as important as physical health to a child's well-being.

What can go wrong with my young child’s mental health?

Some children have temperaments or personalities that make it hard to be a good parent. Their parents and caregivers have challenges in searching for the right way to sooth, comfort, and even relate to their children. Some babies are not cuddlers or snugglers and their parents/caregivers must work hard to find the right “match” when holding, playing with, and comforting these little ones. Other children can have experiences that cause emotional problems such as: parents’ loss of a job, loss of a home, parent deployed with the military, parental depression, domestic violence, parental substance abuse, homelessness, foster care placement, divorce, or sibling concerns. These experiences can cause problems for young children and sometimes lead to more serious concerns.

We now know that even very young children can experience serious troubles and mental health disorders. We also know that many children go untreated for these mental health issues. A serious stress for young children such as loss of or separation from a parent/caregiver can be traumatic for young children. Young children can have anxiety disorders that interfere with their healthy development. Young children can also be depressed. Young children may have a lot of trouble adjusting to new situations. They may have problems understanding and controlling their emotions and actions in response to sensory stimuli such as touch, sight, sound, taste, smell and movement. They may be overly fearful and careful, or negative and defiant. Young children may also be under responsive, overly quiet or non-responsive to others.   Young children can have sleep problems, feeding problems, and disorders in relating and communicating with others.

Although many of these concerns may be troubling, young children are resilient. With the appropriate care and support, many of these issues can be addressed and improved. As a parent/caregiver, when you have serious concerns about your child’s mental health, it is important to seek help early.

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