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Children’s Mental Health Month Builds Awareness and Support

Rachel Demma, Vice President of Education and Innovation

Each May, we recognize Children’s Mental Health Awareness Month here at Port Discovery by promoting awareness and access to information and resources that support the mental health and well-being of children. We also reflect on the supportive and healing power of play as a critical factor in promoting overall health, mental health, and well-being.

The secret to play’s power is in the relationships it builds. Brain science tells us that the strongest defense against stressors that test our mental health and well-being are positive and nurturing relationships. And that goes for both parents and children. Play is one of the very best ways children learn and is a great tool for stress relief – but it also is one of the very best ways that children develop the skill sets they need to develop healthy social and emotional skills and manage toxic stress. Play also helps children experience joy, feelings of self-confidence, improving concentration, building resilience, and developing healthy relationships with caregivers and peers.

Play here at Port Discovery means finding connection and support within a shared sense of community, whether it is through momentary interactions or long-lasting relationships, and helps us all feel better about ourselves and the challenges we may face. That’s why a recent study shows that visiting museums, including children’s museums, help people feel a greater sense of well-being and resiliency.

It's important to take mental health among children seriously and take note of any indicators that should be addressed. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, some signs to look out for in children include the following:

  • Changes in school performance
  • Excessive worry or anxiety, for instance, fighting to avoid bed or school
  • Hyperactive behavior
  • Frequent nightmares
  • Frequent disobedience or aggression
  • Frequent temper tantrums

Additional signs to be aware of include difficulties with how a child plays, learns, speaks, and acts, as well as how a child handles their emotions and issues including repeated refusal to take part in normal activities.

If you have concerns about your child’s mental health or behaviors, consult your child’s healthcare professional as soon as possible. We also encourage you to talk to your child’s health care professionals about signs to look out for about your child’s behavior, social and emotional development, overall health, and mental health.

There are many online resources available to help parents become more aware of mental health, including signs of stress and suggestions for how to find positive coping mechanisms. These include the Center for Disease Control’s COVID-19 Parent Resources Kit and the National Institute of Mental Health’s guide to understanding children’s mental health

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