In an era where superheroes captivate our imaginations, it's time for parents to recognise their superpower—the ability to nurture and safeguard their child's mental health. Amidst the challenges and complexities of modern life, the well-being of your children deserves your utmost attention. Just as superheroes use their unique abilities to protect and uplift, parents possess an extraordinary capacity to shape their child's emotional resilience, confidence, and happiness.
In our exclusive campaign, 'Mental Health Matters', we took a deep dive into the issue. We talked to Lakshit Dhingra, a renowned Counselling Psychologist, who shared crucial tips for parents to support their children dealing with mental health challenges.
According to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), in India, a large number of children with mental health disorders go undiagnosed and are reluctant to seek help or treatment. UNICEF further stated that the Indian Journal of Psychiatry reported in 2019 that even before the pandemic, approximately 50 million children in India were dealing with mental health problems, and the majority, around 80-90%, had not sought any form of support.
Nurturing Learning Amidst Mental Health Challenges: Essential Tips for Parents
The expert recommended the following strategies for parents to support their child's learning and education while dealing with mental health issues.
Foster Open Communication
"Create a safe and non-judgmental space for your child to express their thoughts and feelings about their mental health challenges," Dhingra said. He suggested regularly checking on them to understand their needs and concerns regarding their education.
Collaborate with Professionals
"Work in partnership with mental health professionals and educators to develop an individualised plan that addresses your child's specific needs. This may involve accommodations, modifications, or additional support in the school setting," said the expert.
Provide Structure and Routine
"Establish consistent routines and structures that can provide stability and predictability for your child. This can help them feel more secure and focused on their learning," said Dhingra.
"Teach your child about self-care practices, such as maintaining a healthy sleep schedule, engaging in physical activity, and practising relaxation techniques. These strategies can help manage stress and enhance their overall well-being," he added.
The expert suggested acknowledging and celebrating your child's achievements and milestones, regardless of how small they may seem. "This positive reinforcement can boost their self-esteem and motivation to continue their educational journey," he added.
Parental Values for Nurturing Children's Mental Health: Fostering Empathy, Care, and More
Emphasising the importance of nurturing the following values in parents to support their child's mental health, Dhingra suggested the following:
"Cultivate the ability to understand and share your child's feelings and experiences. Show genuine empathy by actively listening, validating their emotions, and demonstrating understanding and support," he said.
Care and Compassion
"Display unconditional care and compassion toward your child, emphasising that their mental health matters and that you are there to support them. Let them know that other people are going through the same struggles," he added.
Self-Awareness and Self-Care
"Develop self-awareness to recognise your own emotions, reactions, and limitations. Prioritise self-care practices, such as seeking support from others, managing stress, and taking breaks when needed. When you prioritise your well-being, you can provide stronger support for your child," suggested the expert.
"Foster an open-minded attitude that embraces acceptance and understanding of mental health challenges. Challenge societal stigmas and encourage your child to embrace their uniqueness," he said.
Supporting Children Facing Social Prejudices and Stereotypes
Dhingra recommended the following actions for parents to support their children when faced with social prejudices and stereotypes related to their mental health.
Educate and Raise Awareness
He asked parents to provide accurate information about mental health conditions to their children, peers, and other relevant individuals. "Educate them about the realities of mental health, dispelling myths and promoting understanding," he added.
"Help your child build resilience by reinforcing their self-esteem, focusing on their strengths, and encouraging them to develop a positive self-identity. Teach them coping skills to deal with discrimination, such as assertiveness and building a support network," he said.
Advocate For Their Rights
"Be an advocate for your child's rights and well-being. Engage with schools, organisations, and relevant authorities to ensure fair treatment and inclusivity. Promote anti-discrimination policies and support groups that address mental health challenges," said the expert.
"Empower your child to assertively communicate their needs and rights. Teach them to speak up and seek support when faced with prejudice or discrimination, while providing guidance and support along the way," he suggested.
Remember, seeking professional help from psychologists, therapists, or support groups can provide additional guidance and resources for both you and your child when dealing with mental health challenges and social prejudices.
[Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only. Consult a mental health expert if you or your child suffer from any mental health issues.]