More kids facing mental health problems

Experts share how to check-in with your children

By Stacia Strong
Published: Feb. 4, 2021 at 7:32 PM EST
Copyright 2020 WITN. All rights reserved.

Keith Hamm Integrated Family Services
To view the original WITN video segment, click here

NEW BERN, N.C. (WITN) – Mental and emotional health continues to be something that many people are struggling with during the pandemic, and that’s becoming increasingly true for children as well. But experts in the area say there are things that parents can do to help.

For almost a year now, the coronavirus pandemic has completely upended our daily routines, and while some people have not had a hard time adjusting, settling into those changes can be hard for kids.

“There are two things that are very important to kids, and that is structure and socialization and they’ve lost both of those over the last year,” explained Keith Hamm, a Community Liaison for Integrated Family Services.

Hamm says it is normal for your children to have times when they may be struggling with things, but says it’s crucial that parents are checking in daily on their emotional and mental well-being.

“Things that parents really need to be aware of are changes in the child’s behaviors or personality,” said Hamm.

But getting your middle or high school aged child to open up may not always be easy, so Hamm says to be purposeful in how you ask questions. “Not only ask how they are doing, how school is going but pay attention to the nonverbal cues, are they smiling when they are talking to you or are they frowning. They may say everything is fine, it’s great but what are the nonverbal cues,” explained Hamm.

For younger children, school counselor Sarah Foster says to keep it simple and be sure to ask open-ended questions. “Using a scale is a great idea, what does today rank you know 1-10, how was your day, was it an eight or a three, and then try to find out more information. Another good discussion starter is you know what was good about today and what was not good about today, we call that roses and thorns in our house,” said Foster.

For students at her school, she also has family kits that can help children and their families as a whole deal with different situations including grief or loss of a pet.

Both experts say that if you notice your child is experiencing any issues with depression or anxiety and it’s not going away to reach out to their school counselor or mental health professional.

At home, they also agree that encouraging kids to talk about something positive in their day and focus on something they are looking forward to can help. “Help give them structure, and help give them some socialization, come up with some activities that would facilitate that,” said Hamm.

If you think you or your child needs to speak with someone you can find more information here at Integrated Family Services.

Posted in Community, Mental Health, Services