Mental Health and Childhood: Where did we go wrong?

It is no mystery that mental health issues are becoming more common in our children. There are staggering statistics that indicate children are experiencing more mental health issues and symptoms then the previous generations. The suicide rate for children 10-14 has doubled in the last decade. There has been a sharp uptick in both depression and ADHD diagnosis for children and teenagers. We now have the numbers to prove that there has been a dramatic shift in our children’s health and wellbeing, but what is causing it?

There are many possible reasons for the increase in mental health problems amongst children. Could it be that there is simply more awareness of mental health which is why there is more diagnosis?

The less popular opinion is to examine modern day parenting, and look at where we as parents may be falling short in providing our children the environment they need. We do know that brain development is strongly influenced by its environment, so we hold a lot of power as parents to make a significant impact on our children’s wellness.

Here is what has shifted in modern parenting

Children are being endlessly stimulated with screens, and a never-ending cycle of electronic toys.  The concept of being “bored” is practically not existent for modern children. This robs kids of an opportunity to think creatively, expand focus, and utilise high level thinking on a daily basis.

We are struggling to teach responsibility. Whether it be a lack of chores, endless new toys, or a lack of consequences, our children are experiencing a sense of entitlement like no other. This ends up raising children with no boundaries or limits, and a lack of guidance that is desperately needed from the adults in their lives.

Proper sleep, nutrition, and daily exercise seem like the three foundational tenets of raising kids, but sadly we are struggling to meets these basic needs as well. Children and teens are sleep deprived and living a more sedentary lifestyle. These basic needs will impact overall health and behaviour in dramatic ways.

It can be hard to examine ways that you may be falling short as a parent, because parenting is difficult! In Australia, over half of the households have two working parents. There is increased demand placed on parents from the schools and extra curricular activities, and parents may feel like they are just trying to keep their heads above water. The good news is that little changes can make a big difference in you and your child’s life.

Here are small changes you can make as a family to improve wellness as a family:

-Limit screen time for children and adults
-Limit screen time before bed, to promote better sleep
-Cook dinner with your children
-Go for family walks or bike rides after dinner
-Try something new as a family
-Incorporate chores for children around the house
-Have a sit down family dinner
-Incorporate family game nights, with board games
-Limit screen time or radio time in the car to promote conversation
-Model the behaviours you want to see from your children as parents (i.e. go outside more if you want your kids to spend more time outside or less screen time)
-Visit local parks

It can be difficult to examine your lifestyle and parenting style especially when you are dealing with a child struggling with mental health issues. There are a combination of reasons and assumptions made about why more children are being diagnosed with a mental health diagnosis but hopefully it is empowering to know that your influence matters. Making changes in your home can be difficult, but parenting in itself is difficult and it may make a huge difference in your child’s life. If you need help examining your parenting or would like support in making changes speak with a psychologist to help you through the process. You deserve support every step of the way. To book in a time to speak to a psychologist call us on (02) 6262 6157 or book an appointment online.

Related reading:

Are You Addicted to Your Phone?
Modern Ways to Raise a Happy Family
How Different Parenting Styles Affect Children

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