To the English teachers and majors, let me apologize for my very grammatically incorrect title. I’m using the title to express the seriousness of the issue I want to discuss.
I wrote a post this past Wednesday on the importance of mental health awareness as a way to acknowledge this month as Mental Health Awareness month. As I’m surfing the internet this afternoon, I find out that this month is also Children’s Mental Health Awareness month. It’s not a surprise to me, but I think I was caught in amazement that not only are we focusing on the mental health of adults, but also focusing on the mental health of children. As a youth worker for the last 6 years, I’ve worked with various youth. I’ve worked with youth that came from a “normal” 2 parent home and I’ve worked with those who had interesting home circumstances. Regardless, every young person I’ve worked with is unique in their own way (I’ll be doing a blog post in the near future on what I’ve learned as a youth worker). However, we may not be aware of the mental issues that our children are dealing with. I want to share with you all three reasons why I would argue that while all mental health issues are extremely important, the mental health of our children is even MORE important!
- Every child will be a child ONLY ONCE. This is a pretty obvious statement, but the magnitude of this statement is huge! I told you all in the previous post on mental health that one of the most frustrating aspects of life is not being able to go back in the past and change things. This frustration is also relevant with our children. Children have no way of going back in time and being in a different situation. Also remember that 99.9% of things that happen in childhood are beyond the control of the child. We’ve seen many times, especially in the celebrity world, what happens when a child is not able to have a decent childhood. Sometimes they try to live their childhood in their adulthood, which is a recipe for disaster. The rules of adulthood are drastically different from childhood (more on this later on). When a child is not able to take full advantage of the joys of childhood, it can do damage to the child as they grow up and realize that adulthood isn’t a game. What this means is that parents have a huge obligation to provide their children with the most “normal” childhood possible. Stuff does happen, yet it is a travesty when we rush our children to being adults unnecessarily. We have to let our children be children. We shouldn’t put them through the things that adults have to go through.
- What happens in childhood usually carries on to adulthood. What a child sees and experiences in their childhood has a way of carrying over into adulthood. How do I know? Ask adults who grew up in homes where there was an alcoholic addition and now they’re suffering through alcoholic addiction. You can ask an adult who was convicted of abusing someone in their family. Not all of the time, but in many situations, the child either experienced or saw abuse. Ask an adult who is struggling with trusting others (of course selectively but you get my point). A lot of times, their trust was violated as a child and as a result they may struggle for life with trust issues. As parents, we have to do our best to ensure that our children are as safe as possible from forces that would try to harm them. Childhood trauma, especially if it isn’t dealt with properly, has a way of carrying over into adulthood. There are many adults who are suffering today because of something they went through in childhood. I am appreciative of people like my wife who work in the early childhood field. Early childhood research continues to confirm that the experiences children go through from birth to elementary school can have long-term effects on the child as they get older. Again I stress that some things are beyond control. However, if the issue is within our control, we should our best to make sure the issue doesn’t harm our children.
- Adulthood is not kind to people suffering with childhood trauma. Let me be clear that I thank God for the privilege of experiencing adulthood. However, I’ve learned in my 11 years of legally being an adult that most of us are mainly concerned about our own issues. Most people are just simply trying to survive. When you’re in the real world, the focus is results. The focus is the bottom line. While we should seek the help we need if we’re struggling with childhood trauma, our work place doesn’t care about whoever hurt us when we were 5 years old. The main thing the work place is concerned about is if we can get the job done. We also have to think about the reality of how competitive things are in this day and age. For survival we’re not just competing with people in our city, state or country; we’re also competing with people around the world. This is why I stressed in the last post the importance of having a support system. With how difficult life is, we need to have people who we can be vulnerable and open with. If you can find 2-3 good people you can be vulnerable with, that is a blessing. Adulthood is rough, but it’s rougher if we’ve experienced childhood trauma and haven’t dealt with it properly.
I want to conclude by applauding every parent reading my post for doing the best they can to provide a safe, nurturing home to their children. There are events that happen in life that go beyond your control, but continue to reassure the child that everything is going to be fine. I want to encourage all parents to think strongly about what is best for the children. Too many parents make decisions that are about them, but end up hurting the children in the short and long term. If we want to see healthy and whole adults, we must do everything possible to raise healthy and whole children. If your child is dealing with some type of trauma or mental issue, lead them to the help they need now! The older the child gets, the harder it is for the issue to be dealt with. I’m reminded of a quote by Frederick Douglass that says “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men (people).” Broken adults can be lead to wholeness, but many will tell you that it’s a huge battle. Let’s treat our children as prized possessions and do everything possible to provide the safest, most nurturing home possible. Children need our leadership. We can’t afford to let our children down. Too much, especially the future, is on the line!
http://www.cdc.gov/features/childmentalhealth/index.html (CDC’s page on children’s mental health)
On my Pinterest page, I have a board dedicated to mental health issues. I believe I have some pins on children’s mental health either in the mental health board or in the youth ministry board. Check it out.