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3 Problems Kids Face That Aren’t Talked About

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I remember Alicia from fifth grade. Although, my memory is foggy because it seemed like she missed more school than she attended. You never really knew what to expect with her. Sometimes, she was quiet and other times, she was the class clown. She didn’t have many friends because she cried and lost her temper a lot, and as 11-year-olds, we didn’t know how to handle that. Back then, people didn’t talk about these types of challenges for kids, but I assume, based on what I know now, that she was struggling with something mental health-related.

Now, as a mom, my heart breaks for other moms whose kids have challenges like this, especially challenges that come with a greater social stigma. It makes it even harder for parents and children to get the help and support they need. But by talking about these increasingly common problems, we can help affected families realize that they’re not alone and help these children to thrive. We might be having more conversations now than we did back when I was 11, but here are 3 problems kids face that still aren’t talked about enough.

1. Mental Illness

Approximately one in 10 young people ages five to 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 your child’s class who struggle with mental health 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 meet his or her full potential.
  • Take it 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 or her. 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 and boys as well. National surveys estimate that 20 million women and 10 million men in America will have an eating disorder at some point in their lives. The causes of eating disorders are complex and include physiological, emotional, and cultural influences. Our children today are bombarded with media and marketing that distort 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 phase, you can’t afford to let them take hold.
  • Involve professionals. It’s tempting to think you 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—he or she can’t help it and would stop it if he or 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 that 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 your child learns differently. By diagnosing and addressing the challenge early, you can help your child get back on track with less frustration and less damage to his or her self-esteem.

If your child suffers:

  • Deal with the diagnosis. That information can help you unravel the mystery of how your child learns and help him or her to succeed! Rather than endure 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 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 your kid that he or she is smart but 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

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