Working parents need mental health benefits for children

While many employers stepped up Mental health care Game, it seems benefit leaders may be overlooking a vital part of a working parent’s wellness: the mental health of children.

Brightline, a virtual platform for children’s behavioral care, found that 85% of caregivers feel that spending time on their children’s behavioral health affects their ability to function. Since the beginning of the pandemic, 20% of caregivers have noted that their children need more medical care, mental health assistance, or educational services than they felt was normal for a child their age.

Given how the pandemic has changed workplaces and schools, Dr. David Grodberg, chief psychiatrist at Brightline, doesn’t find these responses all too shocking. Three years into the pandemic and families still face an uncertain future.

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“There’s a lot of uncertainty now and wondering what the new normal will be like,” says Dr. Grodberg. “And what we have learned is that children suffer from great psychological stress.”

The American Mental Health Organization estimates that 15% of children, ages 12 to 17, have experienced at least one major depressive episode in the past year. And when their children are stressed and struggling, parents are closely involved.

“When children are anxious, it’s known to take a huge toll on the parents,” says Dr. Grodberg. “As parents, we as human beings are under an obligation to make our children feel better when they are upset and to protect them.”

On top of what’s going on in the home, the staff is also juggling uncertainties outside the home, too. Employers are still figuring out how much they want employees back in the office, or whether they should keep their workforce at home. Plus, this winter’s “3D sickness” of COVID, influenza, and RSV has spread like wildfire in schools and homes. More than 15.2 million children have so far tested positive for COVID, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and an estimated half a million children have long-term COVID-19.

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Even children who have returned to a normal school schedule may experience problems spilling over into their parents’ work. A parent might get called out by the school over an incident involving their child, or find themselves on 30 different text messages from a child looking for reassurance, explains Dr. Grodberg. As children have more difficulty finding words to express themselves, their feelings show through their behavior, which may seem strange or out of character.

Knowing that mental health challenges are likely to persist if not addressed in childhood, Dr. Grodberg stresses the importance of parental access to children’s mental health care. Because ultimately one’s well-being family affairs at work.

“Employers have an opportunity to support employees in a way that they may not have been able to do before,” says Dr. Grodberg. “But whatever the resource is, it should be something that meets parents wherever they are.”

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Dr. Grodberg advises employers to work with third parties that not only offer affordable therapy to children but behavioral training, noting that some parents may feel skeptical about sending their children to a therapist. Behavioral coaching focuses more on helping children develop better life skills for the future, while a therapist asks their patients to explore their past and the reasons behind their behavior.

More importantly, that dr. Grodberg asks employers not to underestimate the difference between therapists trained in children and therapists for adults.

“There are adult mental health companies that use adult interventions that they simply implement with children and adolescents,” he says. “But you want a truly developmental approach designed to educate children and consider parents as well as other stakeholders who are inevitably involved in children’s lives, such as teachers and pediatricians.”

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