Mental Health for Children and Teens

Is there a difference between working with children and teens to working with adults? The answer is yes. We must be very aware of this when we decide to work with children. We must also understand that when we are working with children/teens, we will of course be working with adults as we have to be open and honest with their parents or legal guardians. There are many things to consider when working with children. Often, they are unable to articulate the way they are feeling, or they may be frightened to open up. We must be trained to recognize certain behaviours and use language that children and teens will understand or relate to. We must work on a trust relationship with them just the same as we have to with adults, but we must never assume that they going to comply with our suggestions because we are the adult, and they are the child. Often this is a more difficult relationship to establish, we must understand this and have the patience required for the situation. We must treat them with respect and allow them to have their opinions and encourage them to speak, to tell us how they are feeling, allow them the space to open up and not to feel judged or told what they should or shouldn’t do. They have a voice, and they are allowed to use it. Ask them questions, find out how they are feeling by using words like are you happy or are you sad? There are tools available for working with children, I may not use these tools with teens as they may find some of them patronising, but again you have to judge the situation. Offer them options and let them know they are being heard. When we recognise behaviours ask them questions to find out the reasons behind their behaviours. We must also be aware of the legal implications and what procedures must be followed when working with children. A child may suffer from anxiety but is unable to say I have anxiety but can describe what the feelings are. They may also say things like I no one likes me, or I have no friends, we must work with the child to understand why they are feeling this way and what affects these feelings are having on their behaviours. Often when a child is experiencing things that they don’t fully understand or are negative to them they may try to isolate themselves from others. They may also act out in various often negative ways. Recognising patterns in children as they behave different to adults when they are experiencing mental health is vital to helping them. Finding out what the cause their mental health issues and working towards helping find a solution or resolve. There are number of reasons why a child can be experiencing mental health, they may be being bullied or abused, not just at school but at home. They may be witnessing or experiencing domestic violence and being made to keep quiet about it, therefore, this can be the reason they are acting out. The list of reasons that children can experience mental health is as long as it is for an adult. It is a very sensitive area, and we must work towards helping the child open up and get them talk about what is the catalyst of their issues. From there we can work towards helping them and getting on the road to recovery. Knowing that there is a road to recovery for them is a huge relief for anyone dealing with mental health for children.

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