As Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week kicks off in Arkansas, an expert said parents can help their children have a healthy brain to thrive.

Charles Fay, child psychologist and president of the Love and Logic Institute, said national data show roughly 42% of adolescents aged 12-17 in Arkansas, mirroring national trends, receive services for severe depression.

He argued a healthy brain is the foundation of good parenting and Arkansas parents could foster children’s ability to become mentally strong, responsible and successful.

“Parents creating a home where kids are really expected to take good care of themselves and show them how to do it, with the eating, the diet, with sleep,” Fay outlined. “We’re seeing more young people getting hardly any sleep and one of the biggest reasons is they have their phones or other devices in their bedrooms.”

For children struggling with depression, anxiety or adjusting to challenging situations, the state program ARKids provides mental health resources online.

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Fay stressed it is important for parents to identify signs of mental health struggles in their children. One indicator he suggested is a child’s lack of interest in activities they normally enjoy. He added it is important for parents to consistently be firm and caring with their children.

“Firm means healthy limits and accountability,” Fay emphasized. “There’s been a number of studies recently that show that when kids do not have consistent limits, when they are not held accountable, they are far more likely to suffer from anxiety, depression, and a whole host of other mental health disorders.”

Fay noted the importance of guiding children to translate their natural talents into fulfilling careers. He believes the path leads to greater happiness. His book, “Raising Mentally Strong Kids,” features a strategy combining brain science with practical tools to cultivate resilient minds in children.

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