Stress Busters tackle children’s mental health in Lansing

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How can you know you’re having a mental health crisis if you don’t even know what one is?

In addition to the trials of growing up, today’s children also have the strain of the pandemic such as constantly switching school formats or losing loved ones, said Jennifer Kronkite, prevention and outreach therapist for Clinton, Eaton, and Ingham counties.

However, younger children do not have the vocabulary or the knowledge to recognize what depression or anxiety may look like, or what good coping mechanisms are.

Every Tuesday at the South Lansing Library, Stress Busters teaches children how to recognize their feelings and learn healthy coping mechanisms.

Jody Nelson of the youth engagement services of Clinton, Eaton and Ingham counties said these are recurring programs separated by age groups to accommodate different ages.

The groups are fairly new, formed within the past few months. Nelson said a need was recognized by youth engagement services in the community, that for children the world can be a stressful place, and many children or their parents do not know where to find resources to help.

The children can come to a meeting even if it’s in the middle of the program’s 4- to 8-week cycle, and can attend as many sessions as they want. Parent involvement differs by age group. A group for 3- to 5-year-olds earlier in the day has parents involved, but later groups for older children are not structured for parent involvement. Nelson says the parent feedback is positive.

Struggles with mental health may be difficult for children themselves to recognize. With an adult, Kronkite said, they think they have an idea of what it looks like, from life experience or media, whereas children don’t know. For a parent to know what a child’s struggles may look like, Nelson said sudden changes in any kind of behavior are a strong indicator, such as mood, sleep or appetite.

Kronkite also explained that the earlier a child receives help, the less likely they are to need it later in life.