A new app has been created to help parents distinguish between the normal ups and downs of childhood and emerging mental health problems. 

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt launched the Raising Healthy Minds children's wellbeing app at a virtual event hosted by the Murdoch Children's Research Institute.

Raising Healthy Minds, which focuses on children up to 12 years old, is the Raising Children Network's most responsive, intuitive digital tool yet: a free app that grows with the child and is tailored to their needs and circumstances. 

"We know that parents and health professionals all over Australia care about children's mental health and wellbeing, from questioning whether behaviour is normal to seeking advice during stressful times. The COVID-19 pandemic has only added more pressure to the job of raising healthy children," MCRI Professor Frank Oberklaid said.

Professor Oberklaid, who is Co-Group Leader of Policy, Equity and Translation at MCRI, co-chair of the National Children's Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy and was Foundation Director for the Centre for Community Child Health for 25 years, was heavily involved in data acquisition and analysis for the app.

Raising Healthy Minds gives parents, carers and professionals the proactive support they need to address a child's wellbeing, behaviour and emotions, as well as providing the latest evidence-based information around self and family care. 

Covering over 30 topics with more being added regularly, the app looks at subjects including anxiety, stress, work-life balance, bullying, temperament, grief and loss, gender identity, shyness, depression, bonding and exercise. 

The app has been developed with the help of 85 parents and 21 child health experts, led by the new Director of the Raising Children Network, Derek McCormack, and Professor Oberklaid. 

"Raising Healthy Minds is designed to give clear and concise help wherever and whenever it is needed," Mr McCormack said. "It can be tailored to the needs of each child and adult user, including how parents can take care of themselves, and know where to go for additional support if they need it." 

The parent of a two-year-old, for example, may be sent a notification about toddler tantrums and how to handle them as a family. The app then guides users through normal toddler behaviour, provides tips to head-off tantrums - such as identifying triggers and reducing stress - isolates possible concerns and directs users as to when and how to seek further help. 

Parents and carers are important influences in a child's life, so equipping them with reliable, easy-to-understand information about child development and wellbeing can help them to raise confident, resilient kids, who become confident, resilient adults. This is particularly important given that, left unaddressed, social and emotional difficulties emerging in childhood can become ongoing mental health issues later in life. 

Raising Children Network is supported by the Federal Government. Its member organisations are the Parenting Research Centre and Murdoch Children's with The Royal Children's Hospital Centre for Community Child Health.

Find out more about the Raise a healthy mind app