5 Children’s Mental Health Myths Debunked By A Family Psychologist To Help Understand Kids
Editor’s Note: This article is intended for information purposes only. It does not substitute a doctor. It is vital to always consult a medically trained professional for advice that suits your needs best.
Mental health in childhood means reaching developmental and emotional milestones, and learning healthy social skills and how to cope when there are problems. This is according to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The World Health Organization (WHO) lists some mental health conditions like childhood epilepsy, developmental disabilities, depression, anxiety, and behavioral disorders as major causes of illness and disability among young people.
Experts say that 10% of children and adolescents worldwide experience a mental disorder. But, more often than not, these youngsters do not seek help or receive care. Small wonder then that suicide is the fourth leading cause of death in 15 to 19 year-olds. (A million-and-a-half youngsters have thought of suicide in the Philippines, read here.)
Children’s mental health myths
Dr. Michele Alignay, a family psychologist and a member of the Smart Parenting Board of Experts, sheds lights on chidlren’s mental health by debunking these five common myths:
Myth #1: Kids shouldn’t be praised all the time.
Reason: So they won’t always seek validation when they grow up.
“Oo, hindi dapat that we always give praise to our kids,” says Dr. Alignay. “We can give them instead affirmation.”
She goes on explaining that praise, as an expression of approval or admiration, is simply saying to your child: “You’re so good! You’re so great! You’re so galing!” She then points out, “But the kids don’t know where.”
On the other hand, affirmation, as an emotional support or encouragement, tells exactly where your child is good at. Examples: “Anak, ang galing mo dito sa ginawa mo. Anak, mabuti ’yang niligpit mo ’yung gamit mo. Good job ka diyan!’”
She stresses that giving specifics is very important because “these are the things that help build their sense of self-worth and self-awareness.”
She adds, “So more than giving praise, which is empty inside, give them affirmations. Those are founded on what we see in them, that it’s all about what’s the good in your child.”
Myth #2: Children don’t experience mental health problems.
Reason: They are either moody or going through a stage.
“Children can become moody,” agrees Dr. Alignay. “They go through a stage, especially when they’re reaching puberty and onwards.” But here’s the rub: “Children also go through mental health concerns. So they go together.”
Thus this advice: “We have to get to know our child, so that we will know if it’s just a mood; it’s just a stage; or it’s a mental health concern.”
Myth #3: Getting expert help is a waste of time and money.
Reason: They’ll soon grow out of it.
Dr. Alignay contradicts this popular notion: “Ang pagkonsulta sa espeyalista o sa mga eksperto ay hindi nasasayang ang pera. You are paying more for preventive measures, rather than curing the problem later on.
“Kawawa naman lahat sa pamilya, especially the child. Children may have problems that they might not be able to grow out of. So, if special help is needed, go and seek help.”
Myth #4: Willpower, prayers cure mental health problems.
Reason: These are enough to make children well.
While Dr. Alignay acknowledges that “our children need willpower [and] the power of prayer” to help address mental health issues, she also makes it clear that “those things are not the only things they need.”
She explains, “They need to consult a specialist, seek the help of parents, and we know what are the evidence-based intervention that can be used so that prayer, willpower, support, and expert intervention. They can go together for the best of our child’s mental health.”
Myth #5: Some kids need tough love and tough parenting.
Reason: They are difficult to discipline.
Dr. Alignay clarifies that children are very different from one another. In fact, even siblings are different from each other.” She elucidates, “Some need gentle love, but some, at a certain point, you need to show tough love. Not because you don’t love them, but you want them to learn and grow to be better persons.”
Watch Dr. Alignay debunks the common children’s mental health myths in this video:
Read here for more health-related myths debunked by experts.