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Parenting a Child With Mental Health Issues: Some questions and answers

Parenting a child with mental health issues is a huge challenge.

This is true regardless of your marital status. The strain of trying to help a child with anxiety, depression, ADHD or other issues may have been one of the factors in ending your marriage. But even after a divorce, the parenting challenges continue.

In this post, we will address some common questions that arise in trying to respond to these challenges. The common theme will be that there are ways to help your kid cope with mental health issues, regardless of your marital status.

How common are mental health issues among children?

As many as 1 in 5 children experience a mental health issue in a given year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the percentage is somewhere between 13 and 20 percent.

Are doctors too quick to prescribe medications for anxiety, depression or ADHD?

Being too quick to prescribe Ritalin, Prozac or other medications is of course a big concern. We live in a society in which many adults and kids are highly medicated and arguably over-medicated. To be sure, every case is different, but it's important to ask the question of whether drugs are being used too quickly or to an excessive extent.

Are there factors that are easily overlooked in trying to help kids with mental health issues?

Yes. For one thing, it is worth checking for other health issues, such as nutritional deficiencies or digestive orders.

How could nutrition be a factor in mental health?

Many children have diets that are lacking in protein, vitamins or healthy fats. These deficiencies can interfere with the proper operation of neurotransmitters, which is needed to maintain chemical balance and mental health.

What about digestive disorders?

Digestive disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome or constipation can interfere with neurotransmitters. This is because a very high percentage of positive chemicals such as serotonin and dopamine are produced in the gastrointestinal area.

In other words, it makes sense to do a literal gut check for causes of depression or anxiety.

Is your child connected?

It is very revealing about our culture that "connection so often implies online connection. The problem is that too often kids are literally and figuratively left to their own devices. This can be a problem at any age. But for teenagers, in particular, it can lead to isolation, exposure to bullying on social media and other problems.

To maintain mental health, kids need experiences of community and connection that go beyond the digital. This may mean imposing limits on the amount of time kids spend on electronic devices.

How can you help your kid navigate your divorce?

Sometimes it's hard to know what to do, especially when you're hurting yourself from the pain of divorce. Keep in mind, however, that there are resources available. For example, finding a good counselor can be beneficial in helping your child handle your divorce.

It's also important to work with an attorney who can guide you through the divorce process in a way that opens up the best options possible for the future. In particular, this means working out a parenting plan that makes sense for your child and your situation.

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