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The Importance of Behavioral Health in Children
As parents, and love one's raising children, nothing is more important than the health of our children. That includes their behavioral health as well.
What is Behavioral Health?
Childhood is a time of rapid development and change. Physically, it can mean the achiness of developing bones. What is often overlooked, is the cognitive and behavioral development within children. Kids may face behavioral challenges at different milestones, as development looks different for everyone. These difficulties become even more complicated when you add other disabilities or complex care needs. That makes finding the right pediatric services — particularly behavioral health services — even more vital.
Why Behavioral Health Matters
In nearly every situation, behavioral health challenges can directly impact how families live, work, and play together. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, 13.2 million kids between ages 3 and 17 were diagnosed with anxiety, depression, or other behavioral health disorders. Currently, only 20% of children with behavioral health disorders get the care they need from a specialist. This can happen for many reasons, including:
- High cost of care
- Lack of insurance
- Barriers to access due to location, or provider availability.
Making the right services available can put these children on a healthier path. It can help both them and their families face hurdles to live their best lives.
Addressing every child’s needs
Frequently, children struggle with more than one behavioral health problem. This is where an integrated approach to behavioral health comes in. This method brings together multiple pediatric service providers. Pediatricians, licensed counselors, social workers, child psychiatrists, and family therapists work together to give children the best possible outcome.
Children thrive most in a family setting. However, there are times when behavioral issues can make it challenging for families to stay together. In those cases, at-home behavioral health therapy can be a lifeline.
Family-centered treatment (FTC) can be an effective approach to helping families tackle their problems. This can include crisis intervention, trauma treatment, medication management, family counseling, and more. As part of FTC, behavioral health professionals help families develop coping strategies and skills to build healthier relationships. It all supports the family’s long-term success.
Through this assistance, families learn how to communicate better and listen to a child’s needs. It can create an environment where children feel safe, potentially leading to fewer arguments.
Just like home, schools should be places where children grow and develop in healthy ways. Behavioral health challenges sometimes make it harder for kids to get good grades. They can also make it more difficult for children to make friends and form lasting bonds.
In-school behavioral health programs can help. These therapies and support services can be designed around a child’s specific needs, maximizing their chances of overcoming these obstacles. For children living with developmental disabilities, such as autism, school-based pediatric services can help them build the language, learning, and daily living skills needed for life-long independence.
It’s also important for schools to offer resources that promote better academic success. Many elementary schools, with support from Sevita, offer Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) that ensure kids with identified disabilities and behavioral challenges get the specialized instruction they need. An IEP frequently helps children stay in regular classrooms. They spend more time with their peers, growing, developing, and building social skills at the same pace.
Support in other settings
There are times when difficulties at home make it harder for children with behavioral health problems to manage these challenges. It creates obstacles around managing their schoolwork and their friendships. In these cases, therapy in an outpatient setting can help.
For children in these situations, individual and group therapy can help them develop the coping skills they need. As a result, they’re better able to forge stronger friendships and develop more positive relationships at home. Specialists can work with each child to determine which therapy options are more appropriate for their unique circumstances.
Ultimately, these services help children identify and build on their strengths. The goal is to help them face their behavioral challenges to create the happiest possible future.