Mental health wellness for children and adolescents

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Despite our best efforts, we cannot prevent adversity and daily stress as they are normal conditions of life; but we can learn to be more resilient by changing how we think about challenges and adversities. Children and teens can develop strengths, acquire skills to cope, recover from hardships, and be prepared for future challenges. Developing resiliency skills can help them to succeed in life.

SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) stated in their report Promotion and Prevention In Mental Health, “For children, mental health is not seen as residing solely within the child, but within the web of interactions among the individual child; the family; the school, health, and other child service systems; and the neighborhoods and communities in which the child lives. Protective factors provide “buffers” that diminish the effect of risk factors and help build resilience in children.”

Kenneth Ginsburg, MD, MSEd, FAAP, a pediatrician specializing in adolescent medicine at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), has joined forces with the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to author A Parent’s Guide to Building Resilience in Children and Teens: Giving Your Child Roots and Wings. Dr. Ginsburg offers 7 core skills to develop resiliency. Examples of these skills are connection, coping, and control.

Connection is developing close ties to family and community to create a solid sense of security that helps lead to strong values and prevents alternative destructive paths to love and attention. You can help your child connect with others by building a sense of physical safety and emotional security within your home. Allow the expression of all emotions, so that kids will feel comfortable reaching out during difficult times and address conflict openly in the family to resolve problems. Create a common area where the family can share time (not necessarily TV time) and foster healthy relationships that will reinforce positive messages.

Learning to cope effectively with stress will help your child be better prepared to overcome life’s challenges. Positive coping lessons include modeling positive coping strategies on a consistent basis, guiding your child to develop positive and effective coping strategies, realizing that telling him or her to stop the negative behavior will not be effective, understanding that many risky behaviors are attempts to alleviate the stress and pain in kids’ daily lives, and not condemning your child for negative behaviors and, potentially, increasing his or her sense of shame. These coping skills can include modeling, conflict resolution, limit setting, and assertiveness skills. In addition, caregivers can help their children by offering uninterrupted time for play, quiet places for schoolwork, healthy diet and daily exercise, and monitoring of kid’s Internet access and electronics use.

Children who realize that they can control the outcomes of their decisions are more likely to realize that they have the ability to bounce back. Your child’s understanding that he or she can make a difference further promotes competence and confidence. You can try to empower your child by helping your child to understand that life’s events are not purely random and that most things that happen are the result of another individual’s choices and actions, learning that discipline is about teaching, not punishing or controlling; using discipline to help your child to understand that his actions produce certain consequences.

Children need to know that here is an adult in their life who believes in them and loves them unconditionally. Kids will live “up” or “down” to our expectations. There is no simple answer to guarantee resilience in every situation. But we can challenge ourselves to help our children develop the ability to negotiate their won challenges and to be more resilient, more capable, and happier.

To learn more about resiliency and children along with other resources for mental health and substance use, find us on Facebook and on our Web site at

Jennifer Dempster is interim president of Consolidated Care Inc., 465-8065,