Children and teenagers have a lot on their minds these days. They feel greater demands than ever to make good grades, look good, and be one of popular kids. The pressure to be all that and more overwhelms many kids, compromising their mental health.
Many teens suffer from generalized anxiety disorders, social phobias, and depression. They lose interest in the things they should be enjoying at that age. They may feel like they aren’t good enough. Adults aren’t immune to the same social pressures. It can be tough for a parent who feels the same burdens to counsel their kids to cope. In fact, it can add to parental anxiety.
As they say, there’s no parental handbook, but there are some ways you can safeguard your child’s mental health. Make some smart moves, and you might not only protect their mental health. You might just create a more content adult version of yourself.
1. Grab Social Media by the Horns
You may be able to scroll through social media and not become anxious about what you see posted. For kids, though, social media platforms may be where happiness goes to die. The social pressure, the bullying, and the embarrassing posts may be too much for them.
Prohibiting your child — especially a teenager — from being on social media will be virtually impossible. You can’t watch your child 24/7 to keep them from accessing unsafe apps and platforms. The wiser route is to educate them and limit their time on social media without robbing them of it entirely.
Most kids access social media on their smartphones, but companies like Gabb Wireless can help you circumvent that. According to bestcompany.com, their phones have the advantages of smartphones but without the internet connectivity. That provides the opportunity to supervise your child’s time on social media by using a home computer or your own phone.
Teach your child about the dangers of social media by discussing issues openly. Keep in mind that their perceptions of what they see are different from yours. Instead of telling them how to see it, ask how they perceive it and why.
Social media can be a great way for kids to stay connected to their family and friends. It can provide an outlet for creativity for things like videos and music. Teach them how to use it judiciously and invite discussions to protect them from social media’s dark side.
2. Be Involved in Your Child’s Life in a Healthy Way
Helicopter parents certainly get a bad rap. As with most things, there are extremes in parenting that can be negative. However, the right amount of hovering is far better than none at all.
Parents need to pay attention to what their kids are doing. Asking them about their day, meeting their friends, and inviting dialogue are healthy things to do. This type of relationship is likely to help parents establish trust and openness.
You need to get to know your child and you can do that by being actively involved in their life. In fact that is the only way for you to notice if something is wrong and to react on time. According to tltraining.co.uk, parents are advised to complete the mental health first aid training in order to provide assistance right away to their child if they notice any symptoms in the first place. And while you have to be actively involved, you also want to allow your kid to have their freedom.
Too much control, on the other hand, can render kids unable to handle failure. And failure is how we all learn. Studies have shown that too much involvement in a child’s life causes anxiety and depression. Ironically, those are two mental health issues you’re trying to protect them from.
As children enter adolescence, they need to flex their autonomy more. They need to learn how to make good choices with and without parental input. Most of all, when they struggle, they need to know you’re there to support them.
Striking the balance between under- and over-parenting isn’t easy, and it isn’t the same for every child. Building a relationship of mutual respect will protect your child’s mental health. They’ll have the benefit of knowing that you’ll be there for them with just the right amount of hovering.
3. Help Your Child Set Achievable Goals
When your kids were young, you set goals for them. Remember when your child began to walk? You’d start putting more space between you and your kiddo to encourage them to walk farther. They’d fall down, get back up, and persevere until they could walk as far as they wanted.
As your kids get older, you should help them set goals for themselves, encouraging their ambition within realistic limits. There’s a sweet spot between setting high goals while keeping them achievable. Finding it will help protect their mental health.
Education resource provider Edmentum recommends using the five Ws to help your child set goals: What do they want to do; how, when, and where will they do it? Who will help them, and why is the goal important?
Achieving goals helps kids feel more secure in social, educational, and other settings. They worry less about failure because they will know it’s OK to fail. They avoid persistent feelings of sadness because they have something to look forward to.
Your role is to encourage them to push themselves within their own limits without being pushy yourself. Let them set their own goals and track and reward their progress; you’re there to support them when they fall short. As with learning how to walk, they will learn how to persevere.
4. Be Parent, Counselor, Mentor, and Friend
When your child was young, you could do little wrong in their eyes. They relied upon you for absolutely everything. As kids get older, however, their relationship with the parental unit changes. Instead of being right about everything, you are increasingly “wrong” about everything.
They rebel against being told what to do by attempting to make every decision on their own. You have to figure out how to be a counselor, mentor, and friend while simultaneously remaining the parent. It’s not an easy task, for sure. But for the sake of your child’s mental health, it’s one you have to tackle.
To build a relationship in which your child feels comfortable seeking guidance and support, you’ll need to remain vigilant. That’s how you’ll know which hat you need to wear in a given situation.
At the end of the day, you want to raise a happy, confident, curious, well-adjusted child. Protecting their mental health without stifling their growth may be the ultimate parental challenge. It’s certainly a cause worth the battle for your child and for you.