Social media has been recently flooded with news about the death of two known individuals – Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. Spade was a well-known fashion designer. She founded and co-owned the Kate Spade New York brand. Bourdain, on the other hand, is an influential chef and TV personality who is best known for his gift of storytelling. His shows about culinary adventures liven up with his unique presentation. CNN reports suicide as the cause of death on these two separate incidents. I am shocked and saddened by the news. I couldn’t help but wonder why would someone decide to suddenly end it all?
The increasing report of suicide among known individuals has become a cause for concern among parents who worry about how to prevent children from going through similar situation. Can we really do that? Are there ways to protect our kids from their thoughts and feelings?
What is mental health?
According to World Health Organization (WHO), “Mental health is defined as a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.”
While I agree that a child’s well-being is influenced by a lot of factors, I believe that parents are given an opportunity to set-up a child’s mental health foundation.
Instill discipline early on in life.
“Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not depart from it.”
– Proverbs 22: 6
Parents can help develop mental health. A child instinctively pokes whatever appears interesting (which is everything) and tastes whatever their hands reach. It is our responsibility to allow our kids to explore their surrounding safely. It means saying no when they are about to do something harmful (e.g poking the electric socket) and offering praise and encouragement when they are about to do something beneficial (e.g trying new food). Introduce rules. Be consistent. Allow them to enjoy freedom within boundaries.
Kids are persuasive. Parents are easy to persuade. Who wouldn’t want to provide everything for their children? Who wouldn’t want to keep their little ones happy?
Here’s an experiment on delayed gratification conducted to determine the stage when a child develop the ability to delay gratification. (“Stanford Marshmallow experiment“, n.d):
Walter Mischel, a psychologist, and Stanford professor who conducted the experiment discovered “an unexpected correlation between the results of the marshmallow test and the success of the children many years later. The first follow-up study, in 1988, showed that “preschool children who delayed gratification longer in the self-imposed delay paradigm, were described more than 10 years later by their parents as adolescents who were significantly more competent.” (“Stanford Marshmallow experiment“, n.d).
You are not depriving your child when you let him finish his food before giving him that bar of chocolate. Or when you delay giving him the latest model of iPhone before he could graduate senior high. You are teaching him patience. You are allowing him to exercise his willpower which is essential to a child’s well-being.
Fill up their love tank.
It is easy to get distracted and lose focus on what’s important. Invest in some quality time with your kids. Develop a personal relationship with them. You’ll be able to understand and speak their love language more effectively. A full love tank helps develop self-esteem. A healthy level of self-esteem is beneficial in children’s personality development. How a child perceives himself affects how he perceives life.
Allow them to fail.
We all want to see our kids succeed. Who doesn’t? I myself am guilty of putting unnecessary pressure on a perfect performance from my daughter. A healthy amount of motivation is beneficial but I realized that aiming for perfection everytime does nothing good to me and my child.
Back in grade school, I used to be a consistent top student, class president, and extra-curricular participant. I always get awards. Then people started to expect me to get awards. Don’t get me wrong. Winning is not bad. Cheering for people to win is not bad. The fear of failing and making mistakes is.
Why am I afraid of failing? It is not the trophy I’m afraid of not having. It’s the approval and affirmation from my parents.
The reality of life is not all rainbows and butterflies. Be generous with affirmation. Praise your kids’ efforts as much as their achievements.
Surround them with confidantes
I learned from one of the parenting seminars I attended to that we can actually set-up our kids’ circle of friends early in life. They will not want to share everything with us parents. They will go to other people for advice. As parents, we want our kids’ confidante to be someone who shares the same values as us. Remember the ninongs and ninangs? Apart from the gifts, these people are vital emotional and mental support for our children. Choose people who will give the advice your kids need.
Keep them active and productive
Provide them opportunities to harness their skills. Encourage them to write, to paint, to dance, to play football or basketball. Allow them to enjoy and learn the beauty of finding friends, creating things and expressing one’s self. Be generous with affirmations for efforts as much as for wins and awards.
The Lord put your children under your care because you are the perfect mom/dad for them. Every person goes through a unique journey in life. As much as we want to shield them from all the storms of life, an arrow needs to be released in order to hit its target – it’s destination. Do not be wary. Surrender everything to the Lord and trust His sovereign power above all.
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What’s your take on mental health? Let us know below.