How Can You Protect Your Child’s Mental Health When They Have CHD?
As a parent of a child with CHD, you spend a lot of time worrying about their physical health. But how often do you take the same approach towards mental health?
Kids with CHD of any severity have higher chances of developing anxiety, depression, and ADD/ADHD than kids without CHD. While screening for these illnesses should be considered in all patients with CHD, you as a parent can protect your child's mental health in several ways.
This article will help you understand your child's mental health and provide information on how to help maintain their wellbeing.
CHD and mental health disorders
Overall, about 18.2% of kids and teens with CHD have been diagnosed or prescribed medication for depression and anxiety. Studies have also shown a higher prevalence of ADHD among those with the condition, at 5.1% compared with their peers at 2.1%.
There are a variety of reasons for higher odds of mental health conditions in kids with CHD.
First, specific cardiac procedures that treat CHD, and prolonged hospital stays can all increase the risk of mental health disorders. They can contribute to depression, anxiety, and ADHD.
Additionally, there's the large amount of emotional stress that comes with CHD for both the child and the family, although no two experiences are the same. Experts say depending on how often kids interact with the system, their experiences have a lot to do with how anxious or depressed they feel.
Signs your child may be struggling with their mental health
Aside from mental health professionals, parents can play a significant role in identifying mental health issues in their kids. There are a few obvious signs you can look out for, such as:
- Persistent sadness
- Withdrawing from or avoiding social interaction
- New or unusual outbursts or extreme irritability
- Getting very anxious about bad things happening in the future
More subtle signs can look like unexplainable changes in mood and behavior. Some kids may:
- Sleep more often
- Changes in eating patterns (not wanting to eat as much or eating more than usual)
- Act out in school or with family members
- Experience differences in energy levels
- Change the way they interact with their friends
- Shut down and not want to do the things that they used to enjoy
Parents should look out for psychosomatic symptoms such as aches and pains where their kids didn't have them before. These can be signs of mental health or behavioral disorders.
How to help children cope
Here are a few ways you can protect your child’s mental health:
Choose your wording carefully. When sharing information, try to be honest with your child (at an age-appropriate level). The attachment between you and your child is so crucial for both of you. However, there are ways of saying the same thing with different word choices. Consider the following statements. Which one would make you feel more at ease?
'We're going to the hospital, and everything is going to be fine.'
'We're going to the hospital. Your heart needs surgery, and it's going to hurt, but we will be there and make sure you get the right medicine and the best care.'
Be supportive. Encourage your child to talk about their feelings and validate them when they do. When they express their feelings, listen before responding. Ask questions when nothing seems to be wrong, and talk about your days together if applicable.
This teaches them that even though nothing is wrong right now, they have someone to turn to if something happens. Having a solid support system is key to resilience against physical and mental health conditions. If you or your family could benefit from receiving additional support, consider reaching out to family, friends, or local support groups in your area.
Keywords: protecting child’s mental health, CHD