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3 Problems Kids Face that Aren’t Talked About

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There are many challenges for kids these days. Every child has unique strengths and weaknesses. But culturally, certain childhood challenges come with a greater social stigma, making it even harder for parents and children to get the help and support they need. By increasing the level of dialogue around these increasingly common problems, we can help affected families realize that they’re not alone and help these children to thrive.

Here are 3 problems kids face that aren’t talked about.

1. Mental illness.

Approximately 1 in 10 young people ages 5-16 have a diagnosable mental health disorder. These can range from conduct disorders like severe ADHD to mood disorders like anxiety and depression.

If your child suffers:

  • You’re not alone. There are likely other children in his very class who struggle with a mental disorder or eventually will. You have no reason to feel guilty or ashamed and neither does your child.
  • Ask for help. You may have to play the role of advocate and educator with your child’s teachers, but hopefully, you’ll find most are willing to help when equipped with the right information. Make them your partners in creating an environment in which your child can cope with his condition and meet his full potential.
  • One day at a time. Often when we worry about our children, our greatest, most overwhelming fear is the unknown. Deal with the challenges and solutions needed today and address tomorrow as it comes.

If you know an affected family:

  • Be a great listener. You’re not a mental health expert and won’t have all the answers—but just by listening to a worn-out or worried parent you provide a therapeutic outlet.
  • Offer encouragement. Remind your friends that some of the greatest minds in human history have suffered bouts of mental illness. This is just one chapter in this child’s story and doesn’t define him. Offer to pray for your friend and her child.
  • Be inclusive. Always invite the affected child and parents to group activities. Let them be the ones to decide when it’s not a good idea to join.

More information: National Institute of Mental Health

2. Eating disorders.

While serious eating disorders are typically associated with older adolescent girls, they do affect younger children, as well. Ninety-five percent (95%) of those actively battling a disorder are between the ages of 12 and 25. The causes of eating disorders are complex and include physiological, emotional, and cultural influences. Our children today are bombarded with media and marketing which distorts their perception of “normal,” making more of them susceptible to these disorders.

If your child suffers:

  • Act Quickly. While extreme nutritional habits might be dismissed as an adolescent fling, you can’t afford to let them take hold.
  • Involve professionals. It’s tempting to think, “We can handle this.” But there are evidence-based treatments that can help your child. Seek them out.
  • Approach it like any other illness. Don’t be angry with your child—she can’t help it and would stop it herself if she could.

If you know an affected family:

  • Recognize the complexity. Eating disorders are far more complex than you likely know. Resist the urge to offer “Why don’t you just…” advice.
  • Ask how you can help. The affected parent might just need a dose of encouragement, a prayer partner, or a cheerleader on the road to recovery.
  • Be mindful. Be aware of the language you use around others with regard to body image, weight loss, and beauty. Little comments about your own “battle with the bulge” may unintentionally reinforce wrong thinking or open old wounds which are trying to heal.

More information: National Eating Disorders Association

3. Learning disabilities.

In our highly-competitive world filled with “My Child is an Honor Student at…” bumper stickers, it can be hard to admit that your child struggles. But learning problems don’t necessarily indicate a lack of intelligence. Many times, a learning disability simply means that your child learns differently. By diagnosing and addressing the challenge early, you can help your child get back on track with less frustration and damage to his self-esteem.

If your child suffers:

  • Dealing with the diagnosis. That information can help you unravel the mystery of how she learns and help her succeed! Rather than years of frustration and academic failures, you can now address the real issues and make things better.
  • Communicate well.  Remember: You are the common hub for all of the information and feedback with your child’s therapists, teachers, and guidance counselors, and you play an important role in keeping everyone on the same page.
  • Encourage your child. Academic hardship can be rough on a child’s self-esteem. Remind her that she’s smart—she just needs a different approach! Don’t forget to celebrate the wins.

If you know an affected family:

  • Dial it down. Rein in the boasting about your honor student. After all, the learning-disabled child’s C may have required far more effort and initiative than your whiz kid’s A.
  • Encourage parent and child. Look for other areas where you can celebrate the affected child’s superlative achievements—whether on the stage, on the field, or at the community service project.

More information: National Center for Learning Disabilities

Tell Us! What has been your greatest challenge as a mom?

Dana Hall McCain writes about marriage, parenting, faith and wellness. She is a mom of two, and has been married to a wonderful guy for over 18 years.


What do you think is your biggest struggle?

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