What if you were doing something that was having a negative impact on your child's mental health -- you'd want to know, right?
Whether or not your child has a diagnosed mental health condition, we all have a state of mental health. Mental health has huge implications on everyday life impacting our response to stress, coping skills, interactions with others and how we manage emotions.
Here are 11 things that could be causing more harm than good when it comes to your child's mental health.
1. Steering clear of things that elicit negative feelings for your child
If you remove all of life's unpleasantries, what are you really teaching your child about the world? Doing so will only result in giving your child a false sense of reality. Resilience, being able to get back up after you fall down, is what adults must instill in children. Allow your child to face uncomfortable circumstances even if it makes you uncomfortable. This will teach them about overcoming adversity. This practice will enable your child to employ positive coping mechanisms to get through the situation.
2. Calling the school's attendance line, again
Stop this right now. If your child is truly sick, either physically or mentally, get help. Call a doctor, therapist, counselor, psychologist, etc. and get a professional opinion. Allowing your child to stay home from school and sit idle all day can spur a vicious cycle of school avoidance. School work piles up and students return to academic demands which can further exacerbate feelings of anxiety and isolation. Only let your child stay home when they truly are not well enough for school. Make it a household rule that if kids stay home, they have to see a doctor or mental health professional.
3. Telling your child their negative feelings are irrational
Using logic to vanquish your child's unpleasant emotions won't work. However, the real key here is to give your child the opportunity to understand what triggers their difficult feelings. With this information, they can begin to challenge their irrational thoughts/fears. If your child seems to struggle with recurring irrational fears that pose a major hindrance to their life (school, friendships and/or family relationships), this may be reason to call on the experts for additional support. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is often utilized to treat Anxiety Disorders as it focuses heavily on understanding how behaviours, thoughts and feelings all work together.
4. Minimizing the reasons behind anxious emotions and other unpleasant emotions
Anxiety, for example, can certainly be debilitating, but some anxious feelings can serve as a catalyst for good. Talk to your child about how anxiety can alert us when we are in danger and may allow us to make decisions to keep ourselves safe. Discuss some of the positive implications of anxiety, worry and healthy stress. Like it or not, anxiety can be a motivating force. This helps your child better understand the spectrum of emotions they feel and the reasons behind such emotions.
5. Taking the words right out of your child's mouth
Just because your child may be in a heightened emotional state, doesn't mean you have to communicate for them, or try to guess what they are thinking or feeling. This applies even if you have a very good hunch as the parent. Allow your child to be self-expressive and identify what is going on with their feelings and emotional state. This also means not cutting your child off to interject. Just listen. Plus, talking is cathartic and allows them to draw their own insights and be introspective.
6. Telling them to suck it up and get over it
This very well may be what you are thinking and what you'd like to say, but don't do it. Telling your child to get over it diminishes their feelings and doesn't allow you as the parent a healthy dosage of compassion and empathy toward your child. Instead, focus on a time when your child overcame a similar hurdle and remind them of their inner strength and resilience.
7. Keeping your child so busy they don't have time to think, about anything
The adolescent mind is fragile and gets overwhelmed easily. Be sure that you are not over-scheduling your teenager. Keeping your child busy won't keep them from feeling negative emotions. Allowing your child to have a say in their social calendar (clubs, sports, social outings, etc.) is a good rule of thumb. A motivated child may want to engage in a lot of out of school activities, but as a parent it's important to know your teenager's limits. As teens take on more extra-curricular activities to earn a competitive edge, you may need to be the voice of reason that says: "That's enough. You are good enough."
8. Removing barriers to solve your child's problems
There are some problems your child will face in which you will need to intervene. However, if you remove every impediment that stands in your kid's way then your child won't learn the skills to independently work through problems. Help your child brainstorm solutions to problems they are facing. Give your child a voice in coming up with tangible ways to tackle the issue they are facing.
9. Oversharing (TMI)
Your child shouldn't be the person who you vent to about all the troubles that come your way. Exposing your child to adult-sized problems, like personal finances and marital strife, can overwhelm your kid. Reach out to a friend. And if your personal problems begin to interfere with your ability to parent then it might be time to link up with a professional counselor who has a professional skill-set in helping adults.
10. Being frazzled
Does this really require an explanation? Everything you do in life is being modeled for your child. Get your own emotions in check so your child doesn't have to watch you work through a frazzled state. It's OK to express some emotion and identify the reason behind your emotions, but be mindful of your behaviour in a heightened emotional state. Tap into your support network and employ those healthy coping skills. Do some yoga or try some deep breathing exercises. If you're finding that you haven't developed healthy coping mechanisms to manage your own anxiety and stress, then it may be wise to seek out your own professional mental health support. If your child is in need of mental health support, remain calm. Talk softly. Listen.
11. Assuming "not my kid"
Teens are multifaceted and have complex emotions that can make it difficult to know what they are thinking and feeling. Believe it or not, teens strive for parental approval. Teenagers may conceal how they are feeling so they won't disappoint a parent or cause worry. Don't ever think that your child is immune to a mental health issue or the risk of suicide. If someone shares a concern about your child, don't take it lightly. Seek mental health support for your teenager immediately.
Frame Of Mind is a new series inspired by The Maddie Project that focuses on teens and mental health. The series will aim to raise awareness and spark a conversation by speaking directly to teens who are going through a tough time, as well as their families, teachers and community leaders. We want to ensure that teens who are struggling with mental illness get the help, support and compassion they need. If you would like to contribute a blog to this series, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
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- Why I Talk About My Depression (And You Should Too)
- Losing My Daughter Taught Me The Importance Of Empathy In Mental Health
- Understanding Teen Suicide Helps Make Sense Of The Heartbreak