Parenting with Dr. Ramey: Helping kids without therapy

One of six children has a mental health disorder, but most of these kids don’t receive professional help for their problems. The reasons include parental ignorance, apathy, finances, or simply feeling bewildered by a complex mental health system.

Some of our neediest kids live in families with some of our neediest parents. Most are loving parents who are too overwhelmed trying to get through the day. Taking their child to weekly therapy appointments and making a myriad of changes is simply beyond what they can accomplish.

MORE ADVICE FROM DR. RAMEY: 7 ways to connect with your child

If you can’t get involved with a mental health professional, try one of these suggestions.

1. Make certain your child is getting enough sleep. Many of our kids are sleep-deprived. They may live in chaotic homes without a regular bedtime routine. Sleep deprivation has a big impact on kids' behaviors. Your child may not have a behavior disorder, but rather a sleep problem.

2. Be clear about your rules and expectations. Kids have a hard time adjusting to expectations that are ambiguous and often change. Decide on a few things that matter. Be clear and specific about those rules, and make certain your child can say them back to you.

3. Be consistent in your consequences. Your child's behavior won't change with just wishing and hoping, but rather when consequences are consistently and fairly applied.

RELATED: Predicting our kids’ futures

4. Get more exercise. If the benefits could be captured in a pill, exercise would be marketed as a wonder drug. It's particularly helpful for kids who are depressed, anxious, and hyperactive. It's also a great way to connect with your child. You don't need fancy gym equipment, and your child doesn't need extraordinary athletic skills. Develop a simple routine on a daily basis that works for your family.

5. Stop being so negative. Decrease your criticism and complaining. Notice at least a few things every day that your youngster is doing well. Be more playful and affectionate. Show a genuine interest in the things that matter to your child.

MORE PARENTING TIPS: 4 ways to identify a lonely child

6. Decrease family turmoil. Dysfunctional families often result in kids with serious problems. You may have financial problems or issues with drugs or family violence. If you are in an unhealthy relationship with a spouse who is violent or has a serious drug problem, expect your child to pay the price for living in that type of environment.

7. Take care of yourself. Sometimes the best way to help your child is to help yourself. For your kids' sake, make the tough decisions to become the kind of person and parent you want to be.

Next week: Should you feel compassion for drug addicts?

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