Everything around us is changing. The way we interact, the way we go about doing things. Moreover, the pace at which all this is happening is startling. So stop for a second and think how it is impacting the young generation- those who are born in the time of social media, YouTube and a time when mental health issues are at an all time high.
While we all know that it’s important to keep communicating with your child, we don’t know how to go about it. Shikha Singhal, a working professional and a mother of 8-year-old daughter shares, “I am so worried about all the external factors affecting my child that I tend to over protect her from everyone and everything. However, it has impacted her such that she finds it difficult to face situations on her own.”
Interestingly, her daughter is a topper in school.
It is ironical that parents and academicians are so busy focusing on academic achievements of a child that they tend to ignore the most important part of their growing years – emotional self-regulation. There have been studies that have established that people with higher emotional intelligence have higher IQs (and are more successful) than people who are toppers in schools and colleges. Resilience is the one character trait that’s lacking in most kids and thus, making them prone to mental health issues. We keep asking and encouraging our children to succeed but forget to teach them ‘how to fail’.
First of all, it is important to understand how you respond
to your child’s emotions. Do you see their emotions as unimportant? Do you accept their emotions but try to align them to your expectations? Or do you value their emotions and use them as an opportunity to help them solve issues? Let’s understand that sadness, as an emotion can slow us down, both emotionally and physically.
Stress: How soon can it occur?
It is relevant for parents to know that stress can impact the child ever since she is conceived in the womb. Stress can come from different sources at different developmental stages of child. There are studies to show impact of stress in a pregnant mother’s life- poor prenatal care, abuse, depression, etc, on the child’s physical and mental health. Early child abuse, neglect and trauma has been also shown to have
an impact. Once the child starts going to school, stress can come from different aspects of their life- increased academic demands, parent’s expectations from the child to do well not only at school but in sports and extracurricular activities, peer pressure to “fit in” and “to be cool”. These pressures can often lead to feelings of low self-esteem/confidence, development of anxiety disorders and depression, particularly in teens, shares Dr. Leena Khanzode, Stanford University Adjunct Clinical Faculty and Adviser & Mentor to Mom’s Belief.
How to Communicate
Parents, whether working or not, need to do the following things to open communication channel with their kids: Special time: Both parents should find time to spend one on one time with their kids for at least 15-30 minutes every day. During this time, you should engage in activities that your kid likes, being non- judgmental, not lecturing them or giving them any advice.
The idea is to simply enjoy the activity.
By giving this type of positive attention to your child, you are building a strong foundation in your relationship with them. They know this is a time you will be available to them and so they will come to you to discuss their issues. This can be done differently for different age groups. For younger kids (ages 3-10 years), the activity could be drawing, playing a board game or a sport with them. For tweens and teens (ages 11-18 years), it could be going on a walk or a bike ride, playing video games with them or watching a good show and discussing your thoughts about the show with them.
Talking openly to them about these topics: Sharing your childhood experiences, where you made mistakes and learnt from them, education about changes in body during puberty, sex and “good touch/bad touch”, how parents handled peer pressure when they were growing up helps. Most importantly, practice active listening, allowing them to share their views and don’t pass any immediate judgement.
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