Your child’s mental health is more important than their grades.
We have often heard this, but more often we tend to ignore it. As parents, we need to take care of our child’s mental needs as much as their physical ones.
According to the Indian Journal of Psychiatry in 2019, even before the pandemic, at least 50 million children in India were affected by mental health issues. And, as parents, we are often too busy or ignorant to identify and resolve these issues in our children. Parents can be their biggest support in helping them overcome stress and trauma which can lead to their deteriorating mental health.
Children need help, and if it comes from their parents, the results can be impactful.
In a UNICEF survey across 21 countries, only 41% of young people in India said that it is good to seek support for mental health problems, compared to an average of 83% for 21 countries.
As parents, we can be alert and attentive to understand when our children might need our support and assistance in dealing with mental stress.
Here are some ways in which we can take better care of our child’s mental health.
Stay alert and communicate: It’s important that your child knows they can approach you with any issue, and that they will be received and listened to with love and support. It is important to let them know from time to time that you are there to support and listen to them without judgment can increase the likelihood that they’ll come to you when they have a problem.
Be a role model: "Children learn by example," an expert says. "If they see that it is acceptable to share struggles and challenges, they will be more likely to come to parents with their own."
By being a good role model, you can show them coping strategies, and they feel safe and encouraged to discuss their problems with you.
Monitor their screen time and peer groups: Limiting screen time can also reduce the amount of time they’re looking at the news, which can unknowingly be causing stress and anxiety. Regulate what they watch online and whom they interact with. Rather try to spend more time with them like family game nights, outings, etc. Also, keep a check on their friends and peers because they might often get influenced or bullied by them which can lead to their mental issues.
Help them with coping skills: Encouragement, praise, and affirmations are all ways in which parents can not only build their child's self-confidence and self-esteem but more importantly, support their mental health. Research shows that low self-esteem is associated with anxiety, depression, and academic stress, which all significantly affect a child's quality of life. Talk to them about healthy and unhealthy coping strategies. Taking deep breaths, exercising, thinking positive thoughts, playing with pets and journaling are all good ways children can cope with the crisis.
Show care through your actions: One of the most important ways to support your child's mental health is to show unconditional love, says Jenni Torres, MEd, a former teacher and senior vice president of curriculum and instruction for the Non-profit organization Waterford.org.
Loving your child can be as simple as giving them hugs, spending time with them, and listening to their issues seriously every day. Showing these acts of love can trigger the release of feel-good hormones such as oxytocin. These neurochemicals can bring us a deep sense of calm, emotional warmth, and contentment.
One of the most important aspects is to know when they need your help and support. It is also important that they must feel safe and upfront in opening up to you.
Hope as a parent you keep a tab on your child’s mental health and extend your helping hand. Because the more you ignore it, the dire the consequences will be. Seek professional help if required. Don’t shy away from helping your child through necessary external support without thinking about social prejudices.