Early Diagnosis and a Strong Parent-Child Bond Can Contribute to Successful Outcomes 

October 13, 2021

Article by: Ethan Steever, PhD, Chief Clinical Officer and Licensed Psychologist
Willow Springs Treatment Center
Affiliated with Northern Nevada Medical Center
Part 2 of 2

Mother, father and two sonsTreating mental health disorders will vary by child and mostly depends on age and diagnosis. Nearly all childhood diagnoses are amenable to treatment through psychotherapy, which can involve talk therapy or play therapy. ADHD treatment typically involves pharmacotherapy, although there is now a prescription video game approved by the FDA that has shown success in treating ADHD symptoms.

Most mental health disorders can be treated successfully, if managed early, compared to after symptoms have been evidenced for months or years. A licensed clinical psychologist will utilize psychological testing to validly and reliably assess any difficulties your child may be struggling with and recommend interventions. If you are concerned about your child’s mental health, consulting with a licensed clinical psychologist is a good first stop. Your pediatrician or family medicine provider can provide a referral to a psychologist.

Building a Strong Child-Parent Relationship

Above all, if the parent or caregiver has developed a strong relationship with their child, the child will be more apt to express their emotions and may consider asking for support. Creating a relationship built on love, validation and support will help your child be successful as they grow.

In addition, you can support your child by helping them develop tools to manage their emotions. Self-regulation is the practice of an individual being able to regulate their behaviors and emotions. For example, children with these skills know how to calm themselves when they are upset or they can adjust their behavior and avoid an outburst in a challenging situation. Nonetheless, every child is different and parents should continue monitoring changes in their child that seem abnormal.

Supporting My Child’s Self-Regulation

  1. Take a break. When your child is stressed, try taking a break and removing them from the environment for a brief period of time.
  2. Release energy. Choose their favorite activity indoors or outdoors to release some steam. Ideas such as walking, kicking a ball around, arts and crafts or puzzle time are great ways to refocus negative energy.
  3. Breathing techniques. For adults and children alike, establishing breathing techniques are a perfect way to calm feelings quickly. Slowly breathe in and out several times to create relaxation.
  4. Read or listen to music. Several books playfully teach children how to self-regulate. Music can also serve as a calming tool for any age group.

There are many resources available to children struggling with mental health disorders including outpatient psychotherapy, pharmacotherapy through a psychiatrist, acute hospitalization, day treatment programs, and residential treatment. Your child’s pediatrician or family medicine provider is a good source regarding what types of treatment will be useful for your child. The provider can also identify what options are available in your community.

If your child appears to be experiencing a mental health crisis you can receive help by calling 9-1-1, seeking the nearest emergency department or utilizing any of the resources listed below.

Childhood Mental Health Resources

  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA’s) Disaster Distress Hotline: 800-985-5990
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255 or 888-628-9454 (Spanish)
  • LGBTQ National Hotline: 888-843-4564