With just over 20% of children, or 1 in every 5, suffering from a mental disorder at some point in their life, it is surprising that this statistic hasn’t taken the internet by storm. A silent epidemic impacting our children, mental health disorders are on the rise and it is our job to educate ourselves on how to handle them!
In recent years, experts have noticed a significant increase in the number of children being diagnosed with a variety of mental health issues. The Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry reports that rates of ADHD among children have increased approximately 43% among those aged 4 to 17.
A recent study published in the journal Pediatrics reported that the rate of depression among teenagers has increased dramatically by 37%. The study went on to advise that there is a growing number of teens that are either under-treated or not treated for their depression, and those that are treated require more specialized care than was previously common.
The question becomes, what are we doing differently today that has caused such a sharp increase in mental health problems? Experts point to the environment in which our children are being raised. Today’s fast-paced society means that children are getting less sleep, an increased amount of time indoors in front of a screen (TV or computer), a severe decrease in physical activity and a lack of boundaries and clearly defined limits. There has also been an increase in divorce, resulting in more children feeling as though they are being deprived of relationships with one or both parents.
There has also been a large shift in parenting from the structure and rules that were present for previous generations to parents that allow their children to ‘rule the world.’ These parents, distracted by their own electronic devices in many cases, try harder than ever to make their children feel ‘special,’ creating an inflated sense of entitlement, and a lack of responsibility.
What can we do to change this trend? Experts recommend:
- Ban electronic devices during family dinner
- Determine and implement a consistent sleep routine
- Ban all electronics from the bedroom
- Provide nutritious, healthy food
- Limit snacks and junk food
- Require children pack their own backpacks, teaching independence
- Play one board game together as a family every day
- Teach sharing, empathy, table manners and conversation skills
- Spend 1 hour each day outdoors, ideas include: Walking, biking, and fishing
- Require your children to complete at least one chore each day (hanging clothes, setting the table, folding laundry, etc.)
Most importantly, it is important that we take the time to ensure that we are emotionally available to our children. Experts recommend that you shut your own electronic devices off as they come home from school each afternoon, leaving them off until your children are in bed so that you can devote your time to providing them with the attention and care that they require. Your time with them is limited! Do your best to impart as much knowledge to your children as possible before it’s too late!
Remember, while it may be difficult to put your foot down, it is important to establish rules and limits for your children! This structure is necessary in order to combat these statistics, providing your children a higher chance of living a happy, healthy life without the challenges of life with a mental disorder. Your child is worth it!