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Let's Talk About: What No One is Talking About

Let's talk about what no one is talking about—youth mental health. Within the last decade the conversation on mental health has been increasing in our society. The majority of the time discussion centres around adults and mental health. Canadian stats indicate that 1 in 2 adults will experience mental health issues before the age of 50. If that number is not already alarming, 50% of anxiety disorders in adults occur before the age of eleven. It is heartbreaking to hear these stats but often people do not associate stress, anxiety, mental health with children and youth. I mean what do kids have to stress about?

50% of anxiety disorders in adults occur before the age of eleven.

Just like adults kids have stress. School is a common stressor for many students, especially students with exceptionalities. Last time we learned the story of Peter and his family. Despite Peter's hard work ethic, he is still not able to achieve the marks he desires. His parents have noticed that Peter is starting to lose his confidence. Peter's situation and story is common for many students in middle school with an exceptionality.

Children build their self-esteem and self-concept through comparison—often comparing themselves to their peers. When they see their peers developing strong academic skills at a faster rate, often these younger learners think "is there something wrong with me?". Although no child expresses it directly in words they will often use phrases like: "I can't read", "I don't have good eyes.", "I don't have a good brain." As students get older these statements become more engrained in their mind, and sometimes they reach a state of learned helplessness. Meaning, they feel no matter how hard they work or try they cannot improve their skills so why try? So, how can we help students like Peter have success despite having an exceptionality?

  1. Get Emotional: Expressing our emotions can be a challenge for anyone. But for kids its harder because they don't always have the language to help them express how they feel. Helping kids to express their emotions is a great way to help them release what is bottled up inside of them. "How did that make you feel?", "Did you like that?", "What did you like about that?", "How can I help you?", "What do you think will help you feel better?". These are some questions that parents can use to help start a conversation with their child. Sometimes we just need to talk to get things off of our mind.

  2. Model Positive Self Talk: Help students to combat that negative self-talk by adapting a growth mindset. When a child says, "I can't read", help them change their thinking through a growth mindset by replacing that phrase with, "I am learning to read", and "I am building my skills to be a strong reader". Adapting a growth mindset helps to keep students away from a learned helpless mindset.

  3. Be Honest: As a parent you are doing your best and this is a new journey for you as well as your child. Reassure them that this is something that you are both going to overcome together. Often students feel they are alone in their learning challenges, and they have to weather this "storm" alone. What many don't realize is that we are all in a life boat paddling through the challenging waves of life. Being honest and sharing what you are experiencing with your child helps to reassure them that they are not alone. It also gives them a great model to look up to. They think, "If my parents can do this, so can I."

Yes, let's talk about mental health... not just for adults but for youth as well. If we want to change the statistics on how adults are impacted by mental health it starts with helping and supporting youth and their mental wellness journey as well. Although Peter's parents recognize their son needs academic support, they realize that first they need to find help and support as a family to assist them all with mental wellness on their journey to success. Thankfully, they found this article to help them with their next step. What Happens Next? Stay tune as the adventure continues for Peter and his family.

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