Help children with mental health issues

2013-07-29T14:49:00Z Help children with mental health issuesContributed by Christine Pirlot, Program Director

VALPARAISO | Summer is in full swing and Mental Health America of Porter County would like to reach out to all of the adults who are helping the children in their lives grow up healthy. Often times it is easy for adults to recognize a child’s basic physical needs such as nutritious and balanced meals; adequate shelter and clothing; sufficient rest and physical activity; immunizations; and a healthy living environment.

On the other hand a child’s mental and emotional needs may not be as obvious to us adults even though we know how important it is. Good mental health allows children to think clearly, develop socially, learn new skills, build self-esteem, and develop a positive mental outlook. According to an article released by the National Mental Health America the following are the basics for a child’s good mental health.

• Give children unconditional love. Children need to know that your love does not depend on their accomplishments.

• Nurture children’s confidence and self-esteem. Praise and encourage them. Set realistic goals for them. Be honest about your mistakes. Avoid sarcasm.

• Encourage children to play. Play time is as important to a child’s development as food. Play helps children be creative, develop problem-solving skills and self-control, and learn how to get along with others.

• Enroll children in an after school activity, especially if they are otherwise home alone after school. This is a great way for kids to stay productive, learn something new, gain self-esteem and have something to look forward to during the week. Or check in on children after school if they are home alone. Children need to know that even if you’re not there physically, you’re thinking about them, and interested in how they spent their day and how they’ll spend the rest of it.

• Provide a safe and secure environment. Fear can be very real for a child. Try to find out what is frightening him or her. Be loving, patient and reassuring not critical.

• Give appropriate guidance and discipline when necessary. Be firm, but kind and realistic with your expectations. The goal is not to control the child, but to help him or her learn self-control.

• Communicate. Make time each day after work and school to listen to your children and talk with them about what is happening in their lives. Share emotions and feelings with your children.

• Get help. If you’re concerned about your child’s mental health, consult with teachers, a guidance counselor or another adult who may have information about his or her behavior. If you think there is a problem, seek professional help. Early identification and treatment can help children with mental health problems reach their full potential.

If you are concerned that a child is experiencing any significant mental health issues, it could be time to seek help. Talk to the child’s parent or if you are the parent you can discuss your concerns with your child’s pediatrician. If problems persist, consider a referral to a trained and qualified mental health professional.

Mental Health America of Porter County offers programs that can assist individuals and families. Building Up Our Youth (BUOY) is dedicated to teaching adults how to instill security and positive self-esteem in youth. For more information about BUOY or our other services please contact Christine Pirlot, Program Director at (219) 462-6267 or

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