Parenting with a Focus on Children’s Mental Health
Written by: Zafra Aswar Ali
Parenting is a responsibility like no other, combining both joyous and overwhelming experiences. Parents always wish the best for their children intending to raise healthy and happy children. However, certain actions can knowingly or unknowingly be perceived by children incorrectly and detrimentally affect their mental well-being. Therefore, children’s mental health should be given priority like their physical health because both are vital for their overall development process.
First and foremost, let us look at four widely accepted parenting styles that can impact the mental health of children in various ways.
1. Authoritarian Style
This type of parenting is considered unhealthy because children are expected to follow the rules made by their parents without any questioning. For example, if a child is disobedient, he or she is severely punished without any prior communication or explanation. Moreover, they are pressured to do well in their academics and other extracurricular activities and get blamed for the simplest of mistakes without any appropriate guidance.
Hence, this parenting style is viewed as toxic because, despite getting the child to be obedient, the consequences are often unpleasant. Children who experience that kind of parenting grow up with problems with their self-esteem and the sense of being undervalued which can lead to anxiety and depression.
2. Authoritative Style
Even in this parenting style, parents create a set of rules and have high expectations from their children. However, such parents are quite democratic in this regard because children are granted the freedom to voice out their opinions, ask questions, and share how they feel by maintaining a healthy and strong bond with their parents unlike in the authoritative style. Apart from that, these parents guide children with constructive criticism and are much more forgiving when their children make any mistake.
This parenting style is the most recommended as children from this kind of parenting grow up to be happy and successful with enhanced self-esteem.
3. Permissive Style
Parents following this parenting style display a lack of guidance for immoral behaviours and dislike establishing a clear set of rules, while not expecting much from their children. As a result, children may face issues with authority and perform poorly in school. Furthermore, such children are reported to be less happy and encounter difficulties in self-regulation with a risk of developing anxiety and depression.
On the flip side, parents with this parenting style are comparatively communicative and behave with their children as a friend more than a parent.
4. Uninvolved Style
Parents with this parenting style spend little to no time with their children and are less interested in their children’s activities although their basic needs are fulfilled. Thus, such children may display immoral and antisocial behaviours – lacking self-control and self-esteem when they grow up because of the absence of guidance from their parents. Ultimately, their future relationships are at risk due to the fear of being abandoned.
Now let us explore some parenting approaches that parents can follow during the upbringing of their children with a better focus on their children’s mental well-being.
Paying undivided attention to your children when they communicate with you can undoubtedly help create a healthy relationship with them. Once you start listening to them actively, they will feel valued and have no hesitation to share any information. Remember to maintain eye contact and of course, avoid interrupting them while they talk.
Allow them to express their emotions
Creating a safe space for your children to express their emotions without being judged is a crucial aspect of their upbringing. So, always validate how they feel, whether they are angry, happy, or sad, and handle them empathetically.
Create a supportive environment
Beyond validating their emotions, it is also vital to ensure that they feel safe and nurtured in the home environment. This would enable them to augment their mental well-being because of the unconditional love and support they gain.
Set realistic expectations
Pressurising your children to attain a particular level of success in their academic and extracurricular activities is an unhealthy method of parenting. Instead, as parents you must teach your children the importance of progress over perfection and motivate them to do better every day as human beings.
Teach coping strategies
This is another effective strategy to boost the mental health of your children. Encouraging them to cope with their negative emotions by journaling, meditation, or simple breathing techniques would be beneficial in the long run.
Reduce screen time
Spending too much time on smart devices can have negative consequences on both the physical and mental health of your children. Therefore, limit their screen time and push them to engage in various physical activities including any sports activity, or simply take them for a walk. In addition, encourage them to build social relationships as it plays a major role in emotional development.
With that being said, useful online activities must also be given preference. Tools such as parental controls can be made use of while granting them access to content suitable only for their age category without it being a disruption to other offline activities.
Reach out to a professional when necessary
Regardless of applying suitable parenting techniques, certain behavioural or emotional issues pertaining to mental health such as anxiety, depression, ADHD, and learning disabilities cannot be addressed by yourself. In that case, seek assistance from a mental health professional without any delay and do the needful.
There is no right or wrong way of parenting because of the unique situations in each household and a parenting style alone cannot determine a child’s growth. Nevertheless, parenting is a journey full of ups and downs that require high levels of commitment, empathy, and most importantly patience. Therefore, as parents, be mindful of practising healthy parenting approaches that would enhance your children’s mental well-being – specifically by paying attention to their needs, as each child is unique in their own way.