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Children’s Mental Health Services supporting overwhelmed parents

While Children’s Mental Health Services of Hastings Prince Edward focuses on making sure youth have the help they need, staff are finding that parents are a big part of the solution.

CEO of the Service Susan Sweetman is finding that parents’ mental health goes hand in hand with children’s mental health. While everyone is in the same boat with the pandemic, Sweetman says high expectations and the sheer amount of confusion and change has lead to feelings of stress, frustration and hopelessness unlike anything most parents have experienced. The way parents react has an imprint on their children, and distressed parents are leading to distressed children. This creates problems in the home, as some children have not yet learned to regulate their emotions. Sweetman says this is why Children’s Mental Health Services have changed course into making sure that adults have the supports they need.

However, the Service is always there to chat with kids and help them work through this time. Adolescents in particular are the most at risk due to the sheer amount of stress they are feeling on their own. While some separation from parents is natural as teens try to find their own identity, Sweetman says this separation has only gotten worse with frustrations often directed at parents. Sweetman has had conversations with youth and parents who get into huge fights because the demands of school are not always straightforward, with some kids not taking to the new methods of learning. Those going into university have it especially hard, planning for an uncertain future without the support of peer groups. Social media is a double-edged sword, with too much causing what Sweetman calls “vicarious trauma” and changing their outlook on the world. However, withdrawing from social media entirely separates them from friends and family.

But Sweetman says there are ways to help make things better. Being present with kids, sitting down to do even the simplest things with them helps relieve anxiety. Sweetman also stresses that parents shouldn’t be hard on themselves, as everyone is in the same situation. She suggests calling them sooner rather than later, so they can help address a situation before it becomes a crisis. Even if it does, the Service offers 24/7 support with their crisis line.

The number to reach the Hastings Prince Edward Children’s Mental Health Service is 613-966-3100. Sweetman wants parents to know they are not alone, and the service is always there for them.

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