There is a silent tragedy that is unfolding today in our homes and it concerns our children. As common as this tragedy is, parents have not paid too much attention to it.
In this part of the world, talking about mental health is rare. Focusing on other aspects of life receives more attention. From the provision of food, shelter, education, religious and moral background, parents often neglect a very important aspect of their children’s lives, their mental health.
Victoria Prooday, an Occupational Therapist highlighted some statistics parents need to be keenly aware of. Over the last 15 years, the statistics from various researches show that there is a sharp and steady increase in childhood mental illness that is now reaching epidemic proportions. Research has established that :
- 1 in 5 children have mental health problems
- 43% increase in ADHD has been noted
- 37% increase in adolescent depression
- 200% increase in the suicide rate in children aged 10 to 14
What role do parents play?
As parents, no one really needs to compete with your level of love for your children. However, it is possible that while caring for your children, you could be doing it wrong!
No one has all the answers when it comes to being a parent. However, as we review the trends and research; mental health illnesses are on the increase; so we need to ask what is happening and what are we doing wrong?
One major challenge is that children today are being over-stimulated and over-gifted with material objects. In reality, our children need some very basic things that children have always needed and which serve as the fundamentals of a healthy childhood. These include; Emotionally available parents who set defined limits on what is acceptable and expected. Furthermore, children need balanced nutrition and adequate sleep as well as moving around outdoors. They also need to have the space for creative play, social interaction, unstructured game opportunities and room to bored; as from here, they will create. Lastly, all children need a sense of responsibility which can come in the form of chores.
The Role of Culture
In addition to the home environment, our children are heavily influenced by media and culture. What parents pay attention to and celebrate is a big indicator of how a child sees the world and what they hold as important. There are some prevalent cultural norms that a Nigerian parent must intentionally watch out for and have a response for.
Get rich quick aka “Hammering”
The idea of “Hammering” also known as getting rich at all cost and a quest for material things has taken over and influenced our children and youth. Perhaps you have heard the phrase “fake it till you make it” amongst other pressure to make lots of money quickly with minimal effort.
All these affect the way that a child sees the role of honest and hard work. Additionally, if a child sees his parents celebrate the person who makes money no matter the source, they will start to believe this is the right path. Children need to hear that there is no easy path and that there is no replacement for diligence and hard work to truly be successful.
Comparing Yourself to Others
Comparing your children to others including siblings or their peers is a major contributor to this silent tragedy. As a parent, if you make your child feel inadequate because you constantly compare them to others as a yardstick to measure their success, you are gradually raising children with low self-esteem. In addition, as a parent do you compare yourself by wanting what others have or looking down on others who do not have what you have? Learning to be content is one of the most important things that a child can learn.
Raising children to believe meeting the standards of others, by all means, is the definition of their success; will lead to self-esteem issues and a sense of inferiority. As a parent do you borrow so that you can live a certain lifestyle that you cannot afford? Your children see all this. Are you constantly boasting on social media about all that you have? They are watching.
If we were to generalise somewhat, Nigerians like to celebrate big as seen by the desire for large parties aka Owanbes and expensive aso Ebi. People are known to borrow just to throw parties they cannot afford. Even children’s birthday parties have changed from the simple garden parties they used to be to become large parties in rented halls with matching lavish party packs.
Some children have reportedly come home with ipads from birthday parties. As a result of this lavish spending and competition between parents, some schools have resorted to banning party packs. The schools only allow a cake and perhaps drinks to reduce the high level of unnecessary spending and competition.
Overindulgence and Exposure
Allowing your children a lot of freedom to do all they want at all times exposes them to lots of danger.
Additionally, a culture that makes flirting seem like the order of the day, such as older men calling referring to a young girl as my young wife amongst other types of sexual innuendo is unnecessary. Children need rules, they need to be protected from unnecessary exposure to adult content and language or being dressed in an adult way.
What Can Parents Do?
There are many things parents can do to ensure that they raise children who get the right amount of nurture that enables them to thrive as adults. First, we need to look honestly at some of the areas that need to be tackled.
In recent years, children have been filled with Digitally distracted parents and permissive parents who let children rule the world and set the rules. Secondly, we have parents who let children feel they deserve everything without earning it or being responsible for obtaining it. The explosion of Inadequate sleep, unbalanced nutrition, a sedentary lifestyle and endless stimulation through technological nannies all affect the healthy development of children.
Many parents are so busy with work that they might forget that they have children who need them both physically and emotionally. When you are spending time with your children be intentional and be fully present! They need you to spend quality time with them. Do simple things like playing board games as a family you will be amazed at the bonding that happens over such simple activities. Make sure your devices are off and away!
Be a Parent, Not a Friend
In this age, parents seem to be so conscious of what others will say about them. You need to be clear about your position on different issues that concern your children. Let your children know their limits and boundaries; it is also advisable to explain why. As much as you want to be friendly with your children, they must be aware that you are first a parent.
Reduce Reliance on Technology
Being overly connected to technology and devices is one of the main culprits when it comes to the silent tragedy in parenting today. Technology has taken the place of family bonding. Everyone is always busy with their devices. Raising children in this type of environment encourages them to withdraw from social interactions and see technology as an escape at all times.
You can start today by enjoying a daily family meal without smartphones or distracting technology. [Read: How Screen Time is Turning Kids into Technology Junkies]
Importance of responsibility
Sorting out every problem for your children leaves them dependent on you; this does not teach them how to take care of themselves. It is a silent tragedy when you have adults who cannot solve problems; or crumble under slight challenges; all because their parents always made all the decisions for them. Teach them the necessary skills they need.
Chores are a great way to teach them basic home keeping skills like folding their clothes, making their beds and cleaning their room. For example, when it comes to homework do not provide all the answers, let them make their best effort.
Do not carry your children’s backpack, do not always rush to take their homework they forgot to school. Let them feed themselves if they can; do not do basic tasks for them.
Teach Delayed gratification
Left to children, they will rather have it all immediately. As a parent, you need to guide your children to know all they desire won’t happen at once. It is okay to say No. You are helping to build their emotional resilience to life and delays that are bound to happen now.
Teach your children to greet, to take turns, to share, to say thank you and please. Encourage them to acknowledge errors and apologize when they have done something wrong.
Be emotionally available for your children
Although this is coming as the last point, It is not the least important. As a parent, you should ensure that amidst your busy work schedule and life demands; your children do not lack your attention physically and emotionally.
It is a silent tragedy when your children cannot talk to you. To ensure your children are comfortable discussing any and all topics with you, you must take the time to build rapport with them in an enabling environment.
Encourage quality family time and prioritize this with no distractions. Connect with them emotionally; share a smile, hug them daily, give them a peck, tickle them, read with them or to them, play with them and share their interests.
Children have not changed as much as society and the world around them has changed. Go back to the basics and give the children the nurture and love that they require to grow into emotionally stable and independent adults.
Click to read: [Importance Of Social Media Etiquettes For Teens]