With the COVID-19 pandemic and recent unforeseen events in schools, the mental well-being of our children and youths has come under the spotlight.
It is a longstanding myth that our young ones are spared from mental health issues. In fact, a Singapore Mental Health Study found that more than any other age groups, youths have a higher prevalence of mental disorders such as major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, alcohol abuse, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Youths in their 20s also account for the largest proportion of suicide cases in Singapore.
Children And Youths Are Subject To Greater Demands And Expectations
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This generation of youths faces a different set of challenges from those before. As our society becomes increasingly educated and financially stable, children and youths are subject to greater demands and expectations – not just from their parents, but also from themselves.
The rise of social media also leads to greater comparison and stress from feeling incompetent.
Many youths who come to The Therapy Room voice their struggles with low self-esteem, academic stress, bullying, as well as conflict in family and romantic relationships.
While a certain amount of stress is expected and even beneficial in helping our children grow, we want to caution against dismissing the challenges and distress that our children face.
Mental health issues are not resolved on their own with time; our young ones need to receive adequate support.
There Is A Societal Stigma Towards Mental Health Issues
While recent years have seen an increase in mental health awareness and young people seeking help, there remains a societal stigma towards mental health issues.
Some children and youths may be uncomfortable sharing about their challenges with their parents, for fear of family conflict or of burdening their parents. Even in cases where children express emotional distress, some parents might be unsure of how to respond.
Realising that our children are struggling mentally may trigger feelings of guilt. Questions like “What did I do wrong?”, “Could I have prevented this?”, “Should I have been less strict?” may creep into our minds.
However, it is important to note that the mental wellbeing of our children is influenced by a variety of factors, some of which are out of our control.
Acknowledge that you have shown care and love for your children in the best way you knew how. The last thing we want is for you to feel helpless and suffer from caregiver burnout.
5 Ways Of Promote Our Children’s Mental Wellbeing
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Knowing the importance of caring for our children’s mental health, here are some things that we can do to promote our children’s mental wellbeing:
1. Have open conversations about mental health and our emotions
To reduce the stigma around mental health, we need to talk about it with our children. Not talking about it causes children to feel that what they are experiencing is wrong, and that they have to deal with it on their own.
Talking about events in school and asking simple questions like “How are you feeling?” are ways to start the conversation.
While our children, especially those in their teens, may give one-word responses initially, these conversations are still important in letting them know that they have a space to share their feelings should they choose to.
2. Model good mental health
As parents, we may also model desired behaviour by caring for our own mental health. Share about your own emotions during dinner conversations or whenever appropriate, and invest time in self-care.
Invite your child to participate in self-care activities together, such as taking a walk or practicing mindfulness exercises.
Self-care might also mean having some time away from your children. Let your children know if you are having a bad day and need some time on your own.
Indirectly, you are also teaching them appropriate ways to deal with their emotions, such as having some time-off to calm down rather than lashing out at someone in the heat of the moment.
3. Teach children to identify and acknowledge their emotions
As our children grow, they experience a greater variety and intensity of emotions, some of which they might not have the words to describe.
Help them identify new emotions that they might be feeling, such as jealousy and disappointment when their crush falls for someone else, or insecurity and loneliness when they are left out of a group.
Let them know that it is normal to feel those emotions, and encourage them to acknowledge and talk about it rather than push it aside.
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4. Educate yourself on signs and symptoms of poor mental health
As we have more open conversations about emotions, we want to be equipped with knowledge on signs and symptoms of mental health conditions, so that we know when certain issues warrant greater attention.
We want to know whether a child feeling sad is just having the blues or having depression, and whether a child not wanting to talk to his friends is just feeling shy or having social anxiety.
A general principle is to consider whether the symptoms are persistent and interfering with the child’s normal daily functioning. For instance, a child who takes time to warm up to strangers may be feeling shy, whereas a child who refuses to step out of the house may be having social anxiety.
5. Utilise resources for mental health
Remember that you are not alone in this parenting journey; seek support from teachers, counsellors, and psychologists. As the proverb goes, it takes a village to raise a child.
As children grow into teens, they assert their identity apart from family and you may find yourself becoming emotionally distant.
Allow them to find their space and tap on the support networks they have.
If you have concerns about your child’s mental wellbeing, reach out to your child’s teachers to find out how your child is doing in school, and don’t be afraid to seek external help from psychologists or counsellors if necessary.
For more information on therapy sessions and/or assessments, please contact the team of psychologists and counsellors at The Therapy Room at 6467 8903 or email [email protected] You may also follow us on our social media platforms: Facebook, Instagram, and Youtube.
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