Developmentally Appropriate Parenting Series: Part VII

Childhood Mental Health

Mental health is the overall wellness of how people think, regulate feelings, and behave. Mental health is important at every stage of life, including childhood.

Mental health disorders in children are generally defined as delays or disruptions in developing age-appropriate thinking, behaviors, social skills or regulation of emotions. These disorders can cause distress to children and disrupt their ability to function well at home, in school, or in other social situations.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 7.1 percent of children ages three to 17 (approximately 4.4 million) have diagnosed anxiety, while 3.2 percent of children aged three to 17 (approximately 1.9 million) have diagnosed depression. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reports that one in five teenagers between 13 and 18 will experience at least one “severe mental disorder” during their life, as will roughly 13 percent of kids between ages five and 15 years.

Featured Resources

A Guide for Families: Childhood Mental Health

According to the CDC, symptoms of mental disorders often start in early childhood, though some disorders may develop during the teenage years. Learn about common childhood mental health disorders, warning signs, first steps for families, and available local services.

Services and Resources for Children with Mental Health Disorders

Early diagnosis and appropriate services for children and their families can make a difference in the lives of children with mental disorders. Families play an important role in supporting their children through struggles and treatment. Check out our list of resources for available services, more information, and tools.

Children’s Books About Mental Health

There are various children’s books available that parents can use to help their children understand what specific mental health disorders are and how to cope with them. Here’s a list of some titles.

How Parental Mental Illness Impacts Children

Parents and caregivers of young children play a critical role in a child’s brain development. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), parenting behavior has a significant influence on children’s mental health and may contribute to the development of emotional or behavior problems in children. Learn some positive parenting tips, where to find support, and how to talk to children about mental health.

Supporting Children Who Have Anxiety

Anxiety disorders in children are persistent fears, worries, or anxiety that disrupt their ability to participate in play, school, or typical age-appropriate social situations. Parents and caregivers can implement several practices at home to help children cope with their anxiety. Learn more.

Anxiety Disorder Fact Sheets for Educators and Childcare Providers

The Differences Among Mental, Developmental and Behavioral Conditions

Mental, developmental, and behavioral conditions often get grouped together because they affect thought processes and behavior. The term “dual diag­nosis” is often used to refer to children and adults who have developmental disability and/or behavioral difficulties with co-occurring mental illness. While these conditions can affect children in similar ways, they are very much different. Learn how.

Learn More

Additional resources and information can be found on the Trying Together website at

Image: Three young children play together in a raised bin with sand and toys in it.

Series Navigation

The Developmentally Appropriate Parenting Series highlights several early childhood topics to support parents and caregivers who are caring for young children. Use the list below to navigate through each series topic:

Learn more about the series.

Request free printed materials from our Developmentally Appropriate Parenting Series.


Picture: A young baby looks up at the camera.
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