Everyone knows how critical a child’s mental health is to their development. However, many parents do not always know how exactly to pay attention to their children’s mental health. In a recent conversation, Busola Olamuyuwa, a clinical psychologist and Yetty Williams, parenting coach and founder of LagosMums, delved into the importance of each child’s mental health and the role parents play. As part of the conversation, they focused on children of Nigerian origin who recently relocated to the UK. The article below is based on a summary of 5 things parents should never overlook about their child’s mental health. You can watch the replay of the recording of how parents can identify the red flags in their child’s mental health.
Children also deal with mental health issues
Children are human beings going through life; they are also affected by life’s ups and downs which can impact their mental health. For example, when families relocate, it is not only parents who deal with the pressures of being in a new community, finding new friends, and devising coping mechanisms, children also do. They have to make new friends in new schools, many with people who do not look like them. They have to understand new living areas with strange faces staring at them. Consequently, children are also vulnerable to various mental health conditions, including anxiety, depression, and behavioural disorders. Recognising the impact of neuro-developmental difficulties, parental dynamics, and external factors like bullying; Busola stressed the need for a holistic approach to mental wellness in children.
Parents are Children’s (Mental) Health Role Models
Parents play a pivotal role in their children’s mental health for several reasons. First, there are the genetic factors; a family history of mental ill-health increases the chances of mental health issues along the line. Second, as primary caregivers and role models in a child’s life, parents’ dealings with their children cannot be disconnected from their child’s mental health. For instance, if you are a parent that your child is constantly afraid of, there is a possibility that they develop anxiety around you. If you put a lot of pressure on your child for success, they may begin to get depressed when they do not meet your set targets. Busola emphasised the need for children to have healthy role models.
Parents, as key figures in a child’s life, should model positive behaviours. This includes open communication, and providing a secure emotional foundation. According to Yetty Williams, each parent must be aware of their parenting style and review how effective it is concerning their child’s unique needs. [READ: Find Out Your Parenting Style Here]
The Pressure is Not Werking
Academic success is important, we get it. You did not come from Nigeria to come and be counting roofs, true. Yet, we have to be vigilant. Do not overlook the toll academic stress takes on a child’s mental health. Unrealistic performance expectations and comparing children to others are not helpful. So comparing your child to the girl leading the class in addition to constant pressure to excel and comparing to other peers (or their siblings!) can contribute to anxiety and burnout.
Encourage a healthy approach to studies by fostering a positive attitude to learning rather than focusing solely on grades. Children are more than their scores. So, as with all things in life: recognise their efforts and celebrate them. The race is not to the swift.Children are more than their scores. So, as with all things in life: recognise their efforts and celebrate them. The race is not to the swift. Click To Tweet
Recognise Red Flags
Parents should be vigilant in recognising each child’s mental health red flags. Some key questions to ask yourself: Are they more withdrawn? Are they spending more time with screens (or imaginary friends!) than family? Or are they skipping meals? Are they not getting enough sleep? Do they have a healthy impression of themselves? Do they have unexplained physical injuries? Are they now reluctant to go to school? Some indicators include persistent behavioural issues, unusual anxiety, lack of focus, extreme fatigue, negative feelings, self-harm, and substance misuse. Usually, when it comes to a child’s mental health, parents’ vigilance is the first step in providing the right intervention.
The importance of parental awareness, fostering positive family relationships, and seeking professional help when needed cannot be overemphasised. [Read: How to Ensure Positive Mental Health in Children]
Do Something about Changing the Red Flags to Green!
Because we cannot ‘see and touch’ it, people rarely pay attention to mental health. And when many do, they do not go to the right places for solutions. It is time to pay attention to early warning signs. If your family is undergoing some changes like relocation, or separation, it is important to carry your children along. Don’t just dump those life-changing decisions on them expecting them to just tag along. If you notice that your child is unnecessarily withdrawn, or is having body image issues (maybe because they are beginning to model their lives after social media influencers!), pay attention and seek help from the right avenues.
Professional diagnosis is important for accurate identification and treatment of these conditions. Do not just say ‘God forbid!’; see the right doctor about your concerns. Many times, it is not village people. Take action in the right direction.
You need a holistic approach to safeguard your child’s mental health. By actively addressing emotional expression, monitoring social dynamics, ensuring quality sleep, and fostering a healthy attitude toward academics, you can contribute significantly to your child’s overall well-being. Never overlook these key issues, they are the foundation bricks for a mentally resilient and emotionally balanced future.