The overall well being of a child is a direct consequence of three important factors. These are the child’s health, nutrition and safety. These factors according to (Marotz R. L, 2010) are closely intertwined and dependent on one another. For instance, if a child is fed with a nutritious diet, this will have an overall impact on his/her health.
The child develops positive health due to adequate nourishment and at the same time is prevented from experiencing unnecessary injuries. An adequate and nutritious diet results to optimum blood sugars which improves alertness which in turn promotes quick reactions thus avoiding accidents.
Health is not only an individual’s physical well being but broadly it can be termed as a state of complete physical, emotional, social, economic, cultural and spiritual well being. Health can also be categorized into various categories such as physical health, oral health, mental health etc. Specifically, this paper is going to restrict itself to the latter. A child’s mental health is normally influenced by a combination of factors. Below is a mention of these factors and their subsequent impacts on a child’s mental health.
Self esteem. This is a child’s feelings of self worth in relation to other people. Children with a high sense of self worth are less likely to exhibit negative mental health. Self esteem is developed by parents and teachers alike when they foster an atmosphere of encouragement and understanding for children. However when this is not done, the child is often down on morale and may experience negative mental health.
Stress. Protracted or extreme stress in children contribute to negative mental health. Stressful situations, such as abusive treatment, poverty, unrealistic adult demands, chronic illnesses, unsafe neighborhoods, natural disasters etc can have serious impact on children’s emotional state (Fairbank & Fairbank, 2009).
Childhood depression. Some children are unable to overcome some of their childhood fears which results in them harboring deep rooted grief and desperation. This affects their emotional development and hence leading to negative mental health. It is usually as a result of the child experiencing traumatic events for example divorce of parents, violence, death of a close friend, relative or even pet, chronic illnesses etc.
Childhood fears. Fears and nightmares are a normal occurrence in a child’s developmental stage. They are as a result of the child’s attempt at trying to make sense of their world. Adults ought to consistently reassure the children so that they can be able to overcome these fears. However, when this is not done effectively, it leads to negative mental health for the child.
Poverty and Homelessness. Poverty puts a great strain on parenting. Homeliness in itself is most of the times as a result of poverty. However, it can result from natural disasters such as floods.
The many hardships experienced by poor parents in providing the basic necessities for their children are compounded by stress, fear and conflict. Such pressures increase tensions and conflicts between parents and in most cases these are transferred to the children. Poverty also does not avail the necessary means to provide adequate food and health care for the children. Children from poor families may experience low self esteem since they are unable to compete with their peers from the well to do families material wise.
All these have a consequent negative mental health on the children. Children living in poverty are also more likely to experience abuse, learning and behavior problems, teen pregnancy, substance abuse, higher dropout rates, and reduced earning potential as adults. Ultimately, the cumulative effects of poverty can threaten children’s chances of growing up to become healthy, educated, and productive adults (Mello, 2009).
Violence. Due to the numerous conflicts being experienced in the world today, many children are experiencing violence at very high levels. This leaves the children traumatized and hence suffering serious emotional disturbances. Children who grow up under an environment of domestic violence are at a risk of developing violent behavior themselves once they are adults.
Having looked at some of the factors that may contribute to negative mental health in children, it is my feeling that most of these can be prevented. Parents, teachers and other adults alike should ensure that children under their care develops positive mental health by ensuring the following;
>Encouraging the children to satisfy their curiosity by allowing them to explore their environment albeit under supervision.
>Providing children right from infancy stage with adequate nourishment and comfort in times of distress.
>Assisting the children to develop positive mentally health habits.
>Incorporating aspects of mental health on a daily basis through essential practices.
>Providing an atmosphere of acceptance for the children.
>Showing respect for children’s feelings and rights.
>Acknowledging and fostering children’s comradeship with their peers.
>Designing and promoting activities that enhance social interactions.
>Encouraging self control
>Fostering effective conflict resolution techniques.
>Acting as role models and avoiding violence, substance abuse, abusive language and other such vices.
I am of the opinion that although it is normal for a child to go through the various emotional stages of development, proper guidance and care will go a long way in ensuring that children have a balanced development in all their spheres of life.
Marotz, Lynn R. Health, Safety, and Nutrition for The Young Child.
New York: Wadsworth Publishing, 2008.
Mello, Anthony. Poverty, Homelessness & the Family. Virginia:
Virginia state University Press, 2009.
James, Fairbank. Striving toward the Future. Pennsylvania:
Graven Publishers, (2009).