Recognizing mental health issues in your Grands may be something none of us want to think about but we would be wise to be sensitive to the possibility. Many are struggling in our post-pandemic world but young people especially seem to be at risk. The teen suicide rate has risen dramatically. Google search for “teen suicide rate since pandemic” and you’ll be startled at the number and stark reality check. How do we, as grandparents, keep a vigilant watch over our family without being overly dramatic and seeing problems that don’t exist?
*Please note I am not a psychologist and none of the above should be considered professional psychological advice. If you are concerned about a family member, please seek professional help immediately.
Recognizing Mental Health Issues in Your Grands
First, we can know some of the signs of mental illness. In looking for the most common signs, I found several that pop up consistently on lists floating around the internet. We need to watch our Grands for:
- Extreme mood swings. All young people go through emotional changes while growing up but if we notice something that seems unusual, it’s probably time to pay attention and ask questions.
- Social withdrawal. This was another issue that appeared on many lists of warning signs. If a child is naturally introverted this might be hard to notice, but for a normally social and involved child, a sudden withdrawal could signal problems. Again, conversations need to be had and help sought if necessary.
- Increased fear or anxiety. The pandemic may have muddled some of these symptoms because so many are fearful after a couple of years of turmoil. We can be watchful for over-the-top fears and anxiety though.
Addressing Them With Compassion
Next, we need to remember to be compassionate as we approach concerns about mental health in our Grands. Parents, as well as Grands, may react negatively to concerns that are expressed in harsh or judgmental ways. Each of us values our emotional and mental health and it can be embarrassing or discouraging to have it questioned by another. Consider this as you approach the issue:
- Talk with parents first. Ask if they’ve noticed changes in behavior or have concerns. You may encounter parental concern and relief at having someone to talk to about their own worries with a grand. You might also meet resistance. If so, don’t give up. Be respectful and maintain communications.
- Talk with Grands but don’t quiz them. So frequently young people feel like they are being subjected to parental or adult inquisition when we ask about what they are doing or how they feel. Try not to shoot rapid-fire questions and concerns at them. Talk with them. Share stories of your own struggles growing up. Find common ground. Make sure they know you’re a safe confidante in their life. Tell them how you dealt with life struggles. Be a kind and loving grandparent not a source of additional stress and confusion.
- If there is family agreement that professional help is needed, do what you can to help make it possible. If you can share costs, give rides, participate in group sessions…whatever is necessary…do it. If you have never experienced any family tragedy, you are blessed. If you have experienced any kind of mental health tragedy either directly or indirectly, you know the emotional upset and scarring that can occur. The sooner mental health issues can be identified and addressed, the better for long-term success and recovery.
Mental health issues are difficult and can be confusing. We may try to avoid acknowledging there are problems for fear of our family appearing weak or inadequate in some way. For the sake of our Grands and their future, we need to be vigilant in watching for and dealing with their mental health and development. Our desire is for them to have a bright, fulfilling, and successful future. We can help that along by recognizing when there are mental health issues that need attention.
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