Just the other day I was reading an anthology of stories written by kids. Their stories were amazing but a couple of author introductions (written in first person) were heartbreaking. These 10-13 year olds spoke about having depression and anxiety. While it is good to see that they are aware of their mental health, I think we, as parents, need to do our best to make sure our kids don’t suffer like this at least at this age.
Last year, my 6-year-old came home and told me that he hated school (Hate is a strong word). Why? Because this huge guy in class pushes my son around for being puny. I told him that his classmate’s behaviour could be caused due to various things like parental negligence, older sibling bullies, excessive screen time, etc. This helped him understand that his classmate could also be sad and was trying to express himself in various ways (wrong or right). My little information surely helped because that bully is now his friend.
And now with the new trend where everyone says this fancily – ‘I did that. I’m so idiotic!’ – in that oh-so-annoyingly dramatic way. Some children may say it as a fad. But some actually believe that they are not good enough. Like my son made a mistake the other day and sadly said this in front of me after he did something by mistake. I told him that everyone makes mistakes, so I did not want him to call MY SON such names again because he’s a good boy. He was a little confused, but then understood and smiled. Again, he wouldn’t have been able to work that out without my guidance, now would he?
My point is that children need their parents to guide them with everything, especially emotions and mental health (the most avoided topics in history).
Besides the pressures to fit into friend circles, eventually marry or take over the family business, learn the problems that our children are trying to deal with and what are the possible reasons for their declining mental health.
Kids with emotional intelligence are:
*Less likely to experience symptoms of anxiety and depression and are better equipped at handling stress and frustrations.
*Likely to have positive relationships with their parents, siblings, other family members, peers and teachers.
*Able to make sound decisions however small the situation.
*Mostly able to solve problems and handle challenges effectively.
*Able to control their negative emotions and bounce back sooner than those without.
We should set an example of handling our own negative emotions first. In front of them as well as with them. This is very important for the mental health of the whole family. For example, avoid simply yelling at your kids just because your spouse pissed you off. Another example, last night I was driving my kids to the supermarket on a quick errand and passed over a lake. Passing water in the dark freaks me out! I was almost going to say, “Shucks! This dark lake looks so scary and spooky at night”. But I stopped myself and thought about it. If I said what I felt out loud to THEM, I would just be transferring my fear onto them (like it happened with cockroaches already). Before that, my daughter would pick up an insect and show it to me. Ewww! But then as I unknowingly transferred my fear onto her, she in turn transferred the same to her brother and now all of us scream at the sight of a cockroach.
We can acknowledge and help our kids identify their emotions instead of shushing them or telling them not to get angry, not to think that way, not to feel that way, etc. My son (now 7) got home last week and told me that a classmate told him that his older brother called my son a bad word. My son was very angry about this which I felt was a tricky situation as it involved his classmate’s family. However, instead of asking him to ignore it and not be angry, I explained to my son that it was okay to be angry but also that we should not believe what others tell us about someone else, whether it is about their family member, friend or enemy. Especially when the information is something bad. My little one understood it and now that friend is his good friend.
We can teach them how to handle and overcome their emotions. For example, when my son cried (even at 3), many people told him not to because he was a boy. But, I told him that it was okay to cry and he was free to hug me and cry until he felt better and calmed down. Now, even at 7 years, after he lets it all out and hugs me, he says that he does feel better. This activity has also helped strengthen our mother-son bond.
We can have comfortable conversations with them in order to make them feel comfortable enough to come to us in good times and in bad. It’s very important to listen to what they have to say before jumping to conclusions as soon as they begin speaking. My daughter seemed to be having issues with girls being nasty to her or making her feel bad about something or someone. The other day she said that one of her younger friends told her that a common coach they had had forgotten about her. I thought this was unnecessary information from the younger friend. And then that same girl doesn’t allow her to play with anyone else when in a group. I told my 11-year-old that some kids behave that way to put others down (mostly without realizing how the other would feel). Perhaps they are left too long by themselves to think stuff up. But then, I found a pattern. Most of the kids my daughter mentions happen to be single children (with no siblings).
So, I began recalling and explaining to her how she (my daughter) would behave before my son was born. My daughter didn’t know how to share her toys, she didn’t know how to play what others wanted to play, she would always be stubborn and want to play a particular game her way, she would get angry when others didn’t talk to her while their other friends were around, etc. She learned all about the above only once I intervened or after her brother was born. I told her that single children generally behave like this until their parents intervene or their siblings are born. But, if the parents are unaware or there are no siblings to automatically sort these issues out, these children tend to believe that what they are doing is not wrong. Children need guidance with mental health. They won’t know how to behave until they are shown how to. That’s why listening and talking to them is very important.
Along with healthy conversations, we can also hug them and kiss them and appreciate their good deeds whenever possible. Telling them we love them regularly is also said to be good for their mental health.
Having said this, we should remember that emotional intelligence takes time and every child is different. It is also vital to spend quality time with your little ones, make them laugh, hug them and talk to them in order to notice some change in their mental health. This will help you understand how to go about helping them. Once they have emotional intelligence, they may further begin understanding why their friends could be behaving in a certain manner and help them improve their mental health, too. There is a plethora of good things that can come from this constant effort made by us parents.
So, let’s try mindful parenting to bring up children with high emotional intelligence and confidence instead of depression, anxiety and anger issues. Let us help our kids know that we believe in them and are there for them any day and anytime. After all, it’s not only about keeping our kids physically close, it’s also about trying our best to take care of their mental health.
This post is part of Blogchatter’s CauseAChatter.
Photo by Pixabay.