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How Children’s Mental Health Affects Working Parents 

How Children’s Mental Health Affects Working Parents 
Posted on Thursday, January 4, 2024 by Prudential

Enjoy this featured content from our Pinnacle Partner™ Prudential 

As school starts back up post-holidays, so do all the mixed feelings accompanying children’s mental health associated with returning to the classroom. Children are excited to see their friends, go on field trips, and learn in engaging ways. But their schedules become much busier, and balancing school, extra-curriculars, homework, and other educational demands can lead to stress. Couple that with the shift away from the bustling holiday activities, and you have a recipe that adversely affects children’s mental health and wellbeing. 

The statistics of children’s mental health are staggering

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the most commonly diagnosed mental disorders in children include ADHD (9 million), anxiety (5.8 million), behavioral problems (5.5 million), and depression (2.7 million). These disorders can often occur simultaneously and, due to accessible care challenges, only about 20% of children receive appropriate treatment from a mental health specialist. 

In 2022, NPR reported that schools across the country were seeing students from kindergarten through high school struggling with mental health. A portion of those cases were attributed to the pandemic in 2020, but symptoms continued through 2021 and into the new school year. Additionally, children’s hospitals experienced a 153% increase in emergency room visits for suicide attempts and self-injury among kids 5–18 (compared with 2016), according to the Children’s Hospital Association

Children’s mental health becomes a balancing act

While children’s mental health concerns are rising year over year, there’s another important factor missing from the larger conversation: the connection between children’s mental health and the impact it has on their parents in the workforce. In 2022, the National Alliance on Mental Illness conducted a study to better understand the impact of children’s mental health on presenteeism and productivity—the results were staggering: 

  • 33% of working parents described dealing with their child’s mental health as “challenging.” 
  • 56% of working parents said that their child’s emotional health made it more difficult to handle the stressors of their job. 
  • 51% of working parents said their child’s emotional health distracted them from doing their job. 
  • 55% of working parents felt that the drain of their child’s mental health prevented them from completing their tasks at work. 

What can employers do to help? 

Balancing work responsibilities with the challenge of caring for a child with mental illness is never easy, but luckily, there are numerous ways for employers to make it more manageable. Here are 10 guidelines for employers to follow: 

  1. Break the stigma by talking about mental health in the workplace
  2. Provide resources to your employees, including educational sessions on mental wellbeing. 
  3. Consider extending the benefits of a holistic wellness approach to employees’ family members. 
  4. Foster an environment where employees feel safe to share their struggles with managers. 
  5. Offer flexibility so parents can take appropriate time off to care for and support their children. 
  6. Empower your workforce to support one another and provide guidance and support as needed and remind your employees about available mental health resources. 
  7. Understand the reality of access to care among your current resources. If access to care is a challenge, seek alternatives such as digital solutions or online counseling platforms. 
  8. Let parents know they’re not alone. All parents struggle with work/life balance, and most have experienced emotional challenges in raising their children. Share your stories so others can learn from them. 
  9. Build a company culture where employees feel valued and safe. 
  10. Create an environment of inclusivity. 

What you can do next 

Offer helpful mental health resources at your workplace and promote their availability on a frequent basis. Employees will likely feel more comfortable seeking help when they know they’re not alone, so ensure that every employee feels heard and encouraged. 

Check out our Pinnacle Partner program page to learn more about Prudential’s offerings 

The Prudential Insurance Company of America (Newark, NJ)