A new, national Children’s Mental Health Awareness Study from Beech Acres Parenting Center offers insights into the evolving perceptions and practices of parents regarding the mental health of their children. The study shows that acceptance of mental health as a key factor of overall health is becoming increasingly mainstream among parents.
Among the most compelling results of the study is the dramatic generational change in parents’ view of mental health. While 61% of parents said they had no discussion of mental health when they were kids, only 13% of them do not discuss it now as parents.
“Many children and families live with mental health concerns or even a mental illness, so it’s extremely encouraging that we are bringing down the veil of stigma for parents on this topic,” said Jim Mason, President, and CEO of Beech Acres Parenting Center. “Parents who are actively engaged with their children’s mental health and well-being can have a huge positive impact, and we’ve seen that to be true over many generations at Beech Acres.”
Hope for Parents
This changing attitude toward mental health is further reflected by a finding from the study that 91% of parents who have not had to seek treatment for their child would expect to be involved in their child’s mental health treatment, instead of taking a hands-off approach. Even before seeking treatment, 41% of parents in the study said they actively work to support their children’s mental health on a regular basis.
Parents are interested in hearing about mental health proactively from sources they trust. About 2/3 of parents who participated in the study think mental health resources should be proactively shared by a child’s school. The same number of parents would like to receive mental health resources from their pediatrician during a well-child visit.
“Proactively addressing children’s mental health in a setting in which other needs are already being met has been a successful strategy of ours for several years now through our Parent Connext™ program,” Mason said. “It’s encouraging that parents are validating this approach.”
Parent Connext™ meets parents where they are by placing parenting specialists onsite in pediatric care practices. By providing prompt, practical support, we help build parents’ capacity to provide safe and nurturing environments for their children.
Mental Health Education
As more people realize the importance of mental health, education is increasingly necessary to set aside misconceptions about it.
“There is no substitute for personalized care from a mental health professional to help your family address mental health questions,” Mason said. “Misperceptions about mental health stop some families from accessing the best possible care for their children. By educating and supporting parents, Beech Acres reduces fears and increases parents’ confidence in providing their children with whatever mental health care they may need.”
The study also discovered other areas of mental health that need clarification. For example, the top three concerns of parents who have never had to seek treatment for their children are Not understanding their child’s condition (42%), Fear of the unknown (42%) and Not knowing where to go for help (38%).
In many cases, the answers to mental health treatment questions may be more attainable than we realize. The study indicated that eight in 10 parents believe there is a strong or moderate connection between building on a child’s strengths and improving their mental health.
At Beech Acres, building on a child’s innate strengths is a pillar for its Natural Strength Parenting™ framework. Natural Strength Parenting™ is a distinct approach to parenting that integrates concepts of intentionality and mindfulness to help parents better see and encourage their children’s unique, innate strengths. Beech Acres Parenting Center is the first organization anywhere to recognize the power of combining intentionality, mindfulness, and strengths into one foundational approach to parenting.
Sharon James, Senior Parent Educator at Beech Acres Parenting Center, said the Natural Strength Parenting™ approach can give parents easy steps to support their children’s mental health.
“For example, listen to them with curiosity to spot a strength they have, and make a point to promote that strength to build their confidence and self-esteem,” James said. “This kind of intentional act of support can make a huge, positive impact in the lives of children.”
Information from the Children’s Mental Health Awareness Study is based on a 2018 survey of 798 parents nationwide who have children aged 18 and under that lived with them in their homes.