“Your child’s mental health is more important than their grades.” ANYTHING
Mental stress and related conditions can affect anyone, and everyone. And, if left unattended or ignored, it can blow out of portions. Your and your family’s mental health comes foremost and keeping fit and healthy includes our mental health too.
Many might feel that mental stress is a problem for the adults, but children are prone to it as much as we are. It affects their growth, development, academic performances, interpersonal relationships, most importantly, their emotional quotient (EQ).
In November 2021, the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) in its annual report shed light on an alarming statistic –31 children committed suicide in India every day in 2020. In August, 2021, the consolidated data presented before Parliament stated that between 2017 and 2019, over 24,000 children in the age group of 14-18 years committed suicides. Of this, over 14,000 or more than 54% were girls.
Though these alarming figures might not be relevant for many, but the seeds of depression and mental health deterioration might have been sown a long time back. Hence it is very important for both parents and educators to understand the cues and take action in time.
Childhood and adolescence are critical stages of life for mental health. Hence, the quality of the environment where they are growing up shapes their well-being and development. Negative experiences early in like in homes, schools, or digital spaces, such as exposure to violence, the mental illness of a parent or other caregiver, bullying and poverty, increase the risk of mental illness.
Also, mental health conditions, such as childhood epilepsy, developmental disabilities, depression, anxiety and behavioural disorders, are major causes of illness and disability among young people. Worldwide, 10% of children and adolescents experience a mental disorder, but the majority of them do not seek help or receive care.
Let us understand the probable causes of mental stress in kids.
1. School and Academic performances- Exams or school stress is one of the major reasons. It can be coping up with studies or the classroom environment, or a sense of failure in academics which can lead to mow morale and self-confidence.
2. Bullying- This is truly an evil which is very difficult to cope up with. Statistics say that bullying affects over one million young people every year. Many students face this and are often not able to open up or communicate.
3. Family issues- Family plays an important role in the growth and development of a
child, both physically and mentally. Hence, it can also cause a lot of distress to them if there are family issues like violence, divorce, unforeseen incidents, and others.
4. Peer pressure- Many kids come under the influence of their peers and sometimes in a negative way. This can cause stress and can be a catalyst for drastic steps taken by them. Technology, lifestyle, body shaming, beauty and living standards, morals and values, and many other factors contribute to this in different ways.
5. World Events- World events like the recent pandemic, war or any other event with a large-scale impact can cause trauma and stress for kids as well.
First and foremost, mental health consciousness must be generated among children from an early age through methods that focus on social and emotional well-being and not just academics and marks.
According to WHO, one pedagogical model for doing this is the Social, Emotional and Ethical (SEE) Learning. The programme was developed by Emory University, the US, in collaboration with the Dalai Lama, and is based on advances made by the earlier Social and Educational Learning (SEL) community. SEE Learning recognises that humans are biologically built as social animals and is being used in schools in India such as Vega Schools, Shelford Group of Futuristic Schools, Parvarish – The Museum School.
Now, let us take a look at how you can address the issues and help your child cope with mental stress.
1. Listen to them: Let them voice out their concerns, and take time to listen to them. Most of the stress in them might ease out when they know that there to someone to hear them out.
2. Talk to them: Once you have heard them, have a healthy discussion with them. You can choose mixed topics to talk to them. If you see signs of distress, ask them what bothers them. If you feel that you are sometimes not able to handle it, don’t shy away from consulting a child counsellor who might be able to help them better.
3. Lesser screen time: The more the screen time, the more they are exposed to information which might not be suitable for them. We might want to filter information and present them in the right way for them. So, it is important to monitor their screen time and block unwanted information.
4. Spend family time-outs: Quality family time is very important for a healthy growth. So, spend time in game nights or going out for a movie or may be an occasional picnic. As a family, try to spend time in the company of each other, having fun and sharing happiness. This way trust and care also grows within a family.
5. Engage them constructively: Engage your child in different forms of activities like gardening, cooking, free-play, activities that nurtures the mind. Encourage them to do activities what they like and make sure you interact with them and involve yourself.
6. Show affection: Most importantly, show them affection and care. This way they feel assured that someone is there to listen to them, and they can come and talk to someone. Don’t ignore any signs of distress thinking that all will be well in the end. As a parent, ensure that you understand your child as much as possible, sometimes putting yourself in their shoes.
With the pandemic affecting child in many ways and now them going back to school, it is important that their mental health is taken good care of.