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Child health month – August 2019

August 1, 2019 by optima

While August is Women’s month, it is also Child health month. We take a look at therapy for your younger child and adolescent teenager.


Childhood is an important landmark in every person’s life. Anything that happens in that stage has a direct impact on how they behave later in adulthood. The quality of the child’s relationship with their significant adults, the environment in which they are growing; greatly affect their cognitive, emotional and social development.

There is a rise in the awareness of mental health issues affecting children and adolescents, yet it is underestimated and unknown the impact that some adverse conditions and experiences have in children’s everyday life and future.

Children can be exposed to many issues from academic and social pressure, family breakdown; to more severe adverse life experiences, such as bullying, dysfunctional families, poverty, violence, inappropriate care. Which in the long run is very likely to cause emotional, physical and mental health problems.

All children will sometimes display challenging and defiant behaviors. However, some children present abnormal and extreme challenging behavior which are not age-appropriate.

Some children can understand their own feelings, verbalize how they feel and find way to manage them. They develop the ability to understand the emotional state of others. However, others fail or find more difficult to learn this; as such for these children it is more difficult to self-regulate their emotions and behaviors. They might present themselves, more anxious and aggressive than their peers. This further cause the inability to develop social skills which are important in building friendships and meaningful relationship. A limitation that often is protracted into adulthood.

Child therapy is important because is an opportunity for the child to learn to regulate their emotions and understand the connection between their feelings and behavior in order to have more control over the them. Child therapy promotes:

  • Increase in self-esteem and confidence

  • Decrease of anxiety and depression.

  • Development of a healthy sense of self.

  • Increase of social competencies

In Child therapy, the therapist builds a relationship of trust with the child, which is essential. Allowing the child to freely express themselves and gain awareness and understanding of the inner-self. In the therapeutic space the child or adolescent can feel safe, comfortable and understood, making it easier for them to use therapy in a helpful way.

The therapist is usually very creative in delivering the intervention, as creativity is the medium children use the most to communicate. As such playing, drawing, coloring, building are ways to explore feelings and solve problems with the therapist.


  • Play Therapy

  • Talk Therapy

  • Family Therapy

  • Parent-Child Therapy

  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

  • EMDR(eye movement desensitization & reprocessing)

Through Play Therapy, children learn to communicate with others, express feelings, modify behaviour, develop problem-solving skills, and learn a variety of ways of relating to others. Play provides a safe psychological distance from their problems and allows expression of thoughts and feelings appropriate to their development.

Adolescent Therapy

Therapy Is Helpful for Teens

Middle school and high school teenagers can be some of the most emotionally turbulent times in one’s life. The laid-back days of childhood suddenly transform into packed days and busy nights as teens try to balance school, family, friends, sports and even work, all while trying to figure exactly who they are and where they fit into this world. This is a time where negative self-talk can have a terrible toll on one’s self-esteem and self-worth. There are many worries that come with each part of your life as a teen — How do I fit in better? Are mom and dad proud of me? How can I get to college? — so it’s no wonder that these moving parts can become overwhelming, scary and too much to handle on your own.

Benefits of Adolescent Teen Therapy

We understand how tough adolescence can be. From academic concerns to the stress of being perfect or well-liked, the teen years can be more than overwhelming. You might feel like you’re losing control, but we can help you feel in control and at peace again. Adolescent therapy will help you:

  •   feel happier and less stressed out

  •   become more confident and courageous in life

  •   feel more comfortable with who you are

  •   structure a more balanced schedule

  •   feel more connected and less lonely

  •   develop meaningful and healthy relationships

  •   understand romance

  •   get along better with family

  •   work through and cope with trauma

  •   make healthy choices

All of these benefits can lead to a better state of mental health now as well as provide you with the skills needed to maintain good mental health in the future.

What Every Child Needs for Good Mental Health

It is easy for parents to identify their child’s physical needs: nutritious food, warm clothes when it’s cold, bedtime at a reasonable hour. However, a child’s mental and emotional needs may not be as obvious. Good mental health allows children to think clearly, develop socially and learn new skills.  Additionally, good friends and encouraging words from adults are all important for helping children develop self-confidence, high self-esteem, and a healthy emotional outlook on life.

A child’s physical and mental health are both important.

Basics for a child’s good physical health:

  • Nutritious food

  • Adequate shelter and sleep

  • Exercise

  • Immunizations

  • Healthy living environment

Basics for a child’s good mental health:

  • Unconditional love from family

  • Self-confidence and high self-esteem

  • The opportunity to play with other children

  • Encouraging teachers and supportive caretakers

  • Safe and secure surroundings

  • Appropriate guidance and discipline

Give children unconditional love.

Love, security and acceptance should be at the heart of family life.  Children need to know that your love does not depend on his or her accomplishments.

Mistakes and/or defeats should be expected and accepted. Confidence grows in a home that is full of unconditional love and affection.

Nurture children’s confidence and self-esteem.

  • Praise Them – Encouraging children’s first steps or their ability to learn a new game helps them develop a desire to explore and learn about their surroundings. Allow children to explore and play in a safe area where they cannot get hurt.  Assure them by smiling and talking to them often. Be an active participant in their activities. Your attention helps build their self-confidence and self-esteem.

  • Set Realistic Goals – Young children need realistic goals that match their ambitions with their abilities. With your help, older children can choose activities that test their abilities and increase their self-confidence.

  • Be Honest – Do not hide your failures from your children. It is important for them to know that we all make mistakes. It can be very re-assuring to know that adults are not perfect.

  • Avoid Sarcastic Remarks – If a child loses a game or fails a test, find out how he or she feels about the situation. Children may get discouraged and need a pep talk. Later, when they are ready, talk and offer assurance.

  • Encourage children – To not only strive to do their best, but also to enjoy the process. Trying new activities teaches children about teamwork, self-esteem and new skills.

Make time for play!

Encourage Children to Play

To children, play is just fun. However, playtime is as important to their development as food and good care. Playtime helps children be creative, learn problem-solving skills and learn self-control.  Good, hardy play, which includes running and yelling, is not only fun, but helps children to be physically and mentally healthy.

Children Need Playmates

Sometimes it is important for children to have time with their peers.  By playing with others, children discover their strengths and weaknesses, develop a sense of belonging, and learn how to get along with others. Consider finding a good children’s program through neighbor’s, local community center’s, schools, or your local park and recreation department.

Parents Can be Great Playmates

Join the fun! Playing Monopoly or coloring with a child gives you a great opportunity to share ideas and spend time together in a relaxed setting.

Play for Fun

Winning is not as important as being involved and enjoying the activity. One of the most important questions to ask children is “Did you have fun?’’ not “Did you win?”

In our goal-oriented society, we often acknowledge only success and winning. This attitude can be discouraging and frustrating to children who are learning and experimenting with new activities. It’s more important for children to participate and enjoy themselves.

TV use should be monitored

Try not to use TV as a “baby-sitter” on a regular basis.  Be selective in choosing television shows for children. Some shows can be educational as well as entertaining.

School should be fun!

Starting school is a big event for children. “Playing school” can be a positive way to give them a glimpse of school life.

Try to enroll them in a pre-school, Head Start, or similar community program which provides an opportunity to be with other kids and make new friends. Children can also learn academic basics as well as how to make decisions and cope with problems.

Provide appropriate guidance and instructive discipline

Children need the opportunity to explore and develop new skills and independence. At the same time, children need to learn that certain behaviors are unacceptable and that they are responsible for the consequences of their actions.

As members of a family, children need to learn the rules of the family unit. Offer guidance and discipline that is fair and consistent. They will take these social skills and rules of conduct to school and eventually to the workplace.

 Suggestions on Guidance and Discipline

  • Be firm, but kind and realistic with your expectations. Children’s development depends on your love and encouragement.

  • Set a good example. You cannot expect self-control and self-discipline from a child if you do not practice this behavior.

Criticize the behavior, not the child.  It is best to say, “That was a bad thing you did,” rather than “You are a bad boy or girl.”

Avoid nagging, threats and bribery. Children will learn to ignore nagging, and threats and bribes are seldom effective.

Give children the reasons “why” you are disciplining them and what the potential consequences of their actions might be.

Talk about your feelings.  We all lose our temper from time to time. If you do “blow your top,” it is important to talk about what happened and why you are angry.  Apologize if you were wrong!

Remember, the goal is not to control the child, but for him or her to learn self-control.

Provide a safe and secure home.

It’s okay for children to feel afraid sometimes.  Everyone is afraid of something at some point in their life. Fear and anxiety grow out of experiences that we do not understand. If your children have fears that will not go away and affect his or her behavior, the first step is to find out what is frightening them. Be loving, patient and reassuring, not critical. Remember:  the fear may be very real to the child.

Signs of Fear

Nervous mannerisms, shyness, withdrawal and aggressive behavior may be signs of childhood fears. A change in normal eating and sleeping patterns may also signal an unhealthy fear. Children who “play sick” or feel anxious regularly may have some problems that need attention. Fear of school can occur following a stressful event such as moving to a new neighborhood, changing schools, or after a bad incident at school. Children may not want to go to school after a period of being at home because of an illness.

When to seek help

Parents and family members are usually the first to notice if a child has problems with emotions or behavior. Your observations with those of teachers and other caregivers may lead you to seek help for your child. If you suspect a problem or have questions, consult your pediatrician or contact a mental health professional.

Warning Signs

The following signs may indicate the need for professional assistance or evaluation:

  • Decline in school performance

  • Poor grades despite strong efforts

  • Regular worry or anxiety

  • Repeated refusal to go to school or take part in normal children’s activities

  • Hyperactivity or fidgeting

  • Persistent nightmares

  • Persistent disobedience or aggression

  • Frequent temper tantrums

  • Depression, sadness or irritability

 Learn more about specific mental health conditions and children


Where to seek help

Information and referrals regarding the types of services that are available for children may be obtained from:

  • Mental health organizations, hotlines and libraries

  • Other professionals such as the child’s pediatrician or school counselor

  • Other families in the community

  • Family network organizations

  • Community-based psychiatric care

  • Crisis outreach teams

  • Education or special education services

  • Family resource centre’s and support groups

  • Health services

  • Protection and advocacy groups and organizations

  • Self-help and support groups


American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry –
Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health –
National Association of School Psychologists –
“What Every Child Needs for Good Mental Health” is one in a series of pamphlets on children and teen mental health. –

The Optima Psychiatric Hospital, a healing centre, situated in the Bloemfontein suburb, Hospitaalpark, accommodating 81 patients and is operated by a company consisting of nine partners, all Psychiatrists.

Contact Details

17 Addison St, Bloemfontein, 9301
Phone: 051 502 1800
Fax: 051 502 1810
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