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How Can Parents Support Children Dealing With Mental Health Issues Like Anxiety And Depression

Remember, a change in a child’s behaviour like mood swings and angry outbursts is an indication of inner turmoil, said Dr Amit Sen, Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist

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How Can Parents Support Children Dealing With Mental Health Issues Like Anxiety And Depression
  • Parents should create an emotionally safe space for children: Dr Amit Sen
  • Children should be able to express without the fear of being judged: Dr Sen
  • ‘Reduce your expectations if a child is having an emotionally tough time’

New Delhi: “One of my clients is a 13-year-old boy who has been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and also has learning disabilities. He studies in a very inclusive school and is exceptionally good at sports – football and taekwondo and music as well. But, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, when classes moved online, he couldn’t get the same kind of support from school and friends. Within a few months, he started to show huge behavioural change – mood swings, emotional and angry outbursts and we soon realised that he was slipping into a depression”, shared Dr Amit Sen, Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist.

The teenager’s parents were quick to notice the changes and provide support in the form of, finding ways to channelise their son’s energy; getting him a pet; arranging online classes in music. Since the boy found it extremely hard to continue school, parents suggested suspending classes for some time and instead opting for personalised teaching.

With collaborative efforts of the boy, parents and a professional, the teenager is doing better now. Similarly, every child – be it a young boy, teenager or adolescent – needs the support of the family when dealing with mental health issues, said Dr Sen.

Also Read: Upward Trend In Suicide Cases: How Can You Identify Red Signals In Time?

Five Tips For Parents On How They Can Support Children With Mental Health Issues

Awareness And Acceptance

Many a time when children go through mental health difficulties, their daily rhythms like behaviour, mood, sleep, and appetite change. Typically speaking, especially the behaviour changes like mood or anger outbursts are dealt with in a behavioural way. Meaning they are seen as bad behaviour and there is an attempt to discipline the child through taking away privileges, reprimand, criticism, scolding and sometimes beating them up. That makes it worse, said Dr Sen.

Therefore, the first thing is to be aware that a change in a child’s behaviour is an indication of inner turmoil. Parents also need to be aware that stress, uncertainty, fear, COVID induced anxiety and the disruption of schools and routine has resulted in an increase in mental health issues among children.

Also Read: Consultations For Anxiety, Depression, Gaming Addiction Doubled During COVID-19 Pandemic: Study

Create Emotionally Safe Space

Dr Sen recommends bringing down some of the expectations from children going through a difficult phase emotionally. Expectations not only in academics but also in daily routine things like getting up, brushing, bathing, and changing clothes.

The child may not want to get out of bed or may only demand junk food which might seem like bad behaviour. However, children might be asking for junk food because they can’t tolerate regular food anymore as they have lost appetite. They are looking for comfort food that helps in reducing anxiety and uplifting mood. However, this doesn’t mean you give in to all kinds of demands but try to support them. Give your child the space and time to overcome situations instead of pushing them into doing things. Your child is not deliberately acting a particular way. Children also go through a lot of guilt thinking they are letting others down, said Dr Sen.

Also Read: Study Suggests Strategies To Support Kids’ Mental Health During COVID-19 Pandemic

Listen Rather Than Give Solutions

Creating an emotionally safe space also means letting the child express without the fear of being judged, criticized and getting a thought that ‘my parents will give a solution or lecture’. Elaborating on the point, Dr Sen said,

The moment children begin to share their challenges, the immediate reaction of a parent is to find a solution. That comes from a good place but remember the child is not looking for that. They are looking for compassion. Listen from your heart, absorb the information and understand the feeling.

Follow ‘You, Me, And We’ Approach

Dr Sen is of the opinion that neither parents nor mental health professionals can decide what is best for a child. Any decision has to be taken together, in collaboration with the child. For instance, if parents are planning an outing for their child, they should give options like, do you want to go to a park, your friend’s place or to grandmother’s house.

Also Read: Impact Of COVID-19 On The Mental Health Of Children And How Parents Can Help Them

Children, as young as 5 or 6-year-old, might not be able to give words to their thoughts, but they can still choose. If they make a choice, they will feel much more empowered. You can ask the child, ‘what do you think will help you?’ or ‘how can we help you?’ For instance, a child is spending too much time on mobile. Depending on your bond, you can say, ‘I have noticed that when you spend hours on screen, you become lethargic. What do you think about it?’ And then together try to figure out a solution, said Dr Sen.

Do Not Compare, Have Patience

Treatment for any mental illness is a journey and patience is required to reach the destination. In the process, Dr Sen suggests setting small and achievable goals but also being open to changes. For instance, a child wants to learn music as that brings him peace but he might not be able to take classes regularly. Instead of becoming critical of it, say, it’s fine. If it doesn’t work, we will find something else, said Dr Sen.

When children go through emotional difficulties, often its interplay of how they are wired and how the surrounding system is treating them. For instance, during online classes, some children may face huge difficulties focusing. In turn, teachers will complain, parents will come down heavily, and sooner or later, you will realise that child is suffering from an emotional condition or disorder like depression or anxiety. The wiring is about which child can adapt to these new situations and in what way, said Dr Sen.

Also Read: How To Ensure Mental Wellbeing Of Children During The COVID-19 Crisis

Disclaimer: This content including advice provides generic information only. It is in no way a substitute for qualified medical opinion. Always consult a specialist or your own doctor for more information. NDTV does not claim responsibility for this information.

If you need support or know someone who does, please reach out to your nearest mental health specialist. Helplines:

AASRA: 91-22-27546669 (24 hours)
Sneha Foundation: 91-44-24640050 (24 hours)
Vandrevala Foundation for Mental Health: 9999666555 (24 hours)
iCall: 022-25521111 (Available from Monday to Saturday: 8:00am to 10:00pm)
Connecting NGO: 18002094353 (Available from 12 pm – 8 pm)

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Coronavirus has spread to 195 countries. The total confirmed cases worldwide are 22,95,44,435 and 47,08,190 have died; 19,20,52,504 are active cases and 3,27,83,741 have recovered as on September 22, 2021 at 3:49 am.


3,35,31,498 26,964Cases
3,27,83,741 34,167Recovered
4,45,768 383Deaths
In India, there are 3,35,31,498 confirmed cases including 4,45,768 deaths. The number of active cases is 3,01,989 and 3,27,83,741 have recovered as on September 22, 2021 at 2:30 am.

State Details

State Cases Active Recovered Deaths

65,27,629 3,131

44,269 960

63,44,744 4,021

1,38,616 70


45,39,926 15,768

1,61,765 5,813

43,54,264 21,367

23,897 214


29,69,361 818

13,769 617

29,17,944 1,414

37,648 21

Tamil Nadu

26,48,688 1,647

16,993 9

25,96,316 1,619

35,379 19

Andhra Pradesh

20,40,708 1,179

13,905 483

20,12,714 1,651

14,089 11

Uttar Pradesh

17,09,693 13

194 0

16,86,612 13


West Bengal

15,62,710 537

7,741 69

15,36,291 592

18,678 14


14,38,556 39

400 21

14,13,071 18



10,21,216 462

4,844 103

10,08,226 560

8,146 5


10,05,120 26

297 0

9,91,260 26



9,54,275 12

99 8

9,45,222 4



8,25,751 14

133 0

8,15,536 14


Madhya Pradesh

7,92,410 8

90 6

7,81,803 14



7,70,754 8

328 12

7,60,618 20



7,25,907 6

60 9

7,16,188 15



6,63,906 244

4,938 53

6,55,061 296

3,907 1


6,01,359 36

304 3

5,84,554 37

16,501 2


5,98,864 441

5,081 97

5,87,970 338

5,813 6


3,48,139 14

65 10

3,42,941 4



3,43,405 12

249 18

3,35,765 29

7,391 1

Jammu And Kashmir

3,28,214 145

1,450 11

3,22,345 154

4,419 2

Himachal Pradesh

2,17,403 263

1,715 99

2,12,033 162

3,655 2


1,75,690 107

886 76

1,71,507 29

3,297 2


1,25,618 101

922 55

1,22,864 46



1,18,870 197

2,174 9

1,14,861 203

1,835 3


83,956 51

353 7

82,794 44



82,815 1,355

15,363 223

67,184 1,127

268 5


79,817 150

1,878 18

76,558 167

1,381 1


65,195 7

44 3

64,333 4


Arunachal Pradesh

54,190 64

413 3

53,504 60

273 1


31,014 43

627 27

30,007 70



30,959 52

470 3

29,832 46

657 3


20,743 6

144 6



Dadra And Nagar Haveli


0 0




10,360 1

9 1



Andaman And Nicobar Islands

7,607 7

17 4

7,461 3


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