Reading, writing and drawing are an excellent way to bond with your child. But did you know that for children who are upset or who have mental health issues, these tools can also be potent cognitive behavioural therapy techniques?

When your child is feeling distressed or showing any warning signs of a breakdown, reading a story together, or painting a picture together may allow your child to calm themselves through the combination of physical and mental stimulation.

There are many different therapeutic methods and treatments for children suffering from mental health disorders. Activities such as reading and writing allow a form of productive and positive escapism and outlet that can both soothe your child and allow a shift in focus.

Reading, for example, can not only calm and relax a child through the above methods, but it can also allow them to relate and empathise with story characters that may be going through similar things that they are.

A National Reading Scheme

A national reading scheme to support young people’s mental health was launched in the UK last year, with specific books recommended by GPs, school nurses, counsellors and other health professionals being made available for anyone to borrow for free from public libraries from April 2016. The list includes a wide range of self-help and information titles, as well as memoirs, graphic novels and fiction. They include titles from hugely influential novels such as ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time’ by Mark Haddon and ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’ by Stephen Chbosky.

Recognising the Signs of Children’s Mental Health Problems

Treatments for mental health issues should always have a specific goals and measurable outcomes and include you – as a parent it’s important to both feel like you’re supporting your child and also make your child feel like you are supporting them.

A staggering 1 in 10 children between 5 and 16 suffer from a mental health problem. This is the equivalent of 3 children to every classroom. Recognising the signs of mental health within children is a skill we must all learn, as many go unrecognised and untreated. So many people mistake mental health problems for misbehaviour, so here are some of the biggest warning signs and some therapeutic tips to help:

What are the signs?

It’s not uncommon for children to push the boundaries and to act out: that can simply be a part of growing up and learning how to behave. However, if a child continuously shows signs of misbehaviour, distress or drastic mood swings, this could be a big red flag for a mental health problem. Often feeling confused, isolated and hyperactive, misbehaviour is often an outlet for their misbehaviour.

The most identifiable symptoms are:

● Fighting and aggression

● Distraction and misbehaviour in the classroom

● Uncontrollable bursts of emotion

● Overwhelmed feelings

● Panic attacks

● Erratic mood swings

In more drastic cases, often associated with older children, is substance abuse and self-harming. Mental health conditions can make a child feel isolated, lost and alone, and these drastic measures can be used as an outlet from their pain. Children who use these drastic measures may also be looking for a form of escapism.

Substance abuse can range from alcoholism to drug taking, and self-harming can be anything from burning, cutting or punching. These are drastic cases and must be treated with the upmost sensitivity, as self-harming is closely linked to suicidal tendencies.

Infographic Identifying Mental Health Problems in Kids

This infographic was brought to you by

Knowing how to act:

Becoming frustrated with a child who misbehaves continuously and seems distressed can be extremely damaging, as it can lead to them feeling isolated and misunderstood. It’s important to remain patient and understanding when dealing with children who are displaying signs of mental health problems. If you believe that your child is displaying any signs, then do not hesitate to act, as too many children are left undiagnosed. Consult with a child psychiatrist, paediatrician or counsellor to ensure that your child is getting the best possible help and diagnosis.

Guest Post by Alice Porter

Alice Porter is a writer who works closely with a fostering agency in Liverpool to raise awareness for children’s mental health issues.