As parents, every one of you wants your child to succeed, live a healthy life, and be independent. However, parenting is not easy because life throws a lot of challenges at every stage. Some of the challenges are uncontrollable while others are the result of actions or experiences of the child. Parents play a major role in grooming the physical and mental well-being of their kids. They share a physical, emotional, and social relationship with the kids. The bond between a parent and child is unique and it lays the foundation for the child’s personality, behavior, growth, development, life choices, and overall attitude. It’s a known fact that one in six kids has mental, developmental, and behavioral issues between the ages of two to eight. That’s why positive parenting is so important. Here is a quick glimpse of how parents affect their children’s mental health.
The Importance of Parent-Child Relationship
Children who grow up with a healthy attachment to their parents are happy and develop good relationships. A healthy parental attachment involves intervention in a child’s day-to-day life. Kids who feel supported at home and in school perform well than the ones who don’t feel supported. A secure relationship with the parents leads to healthy social, emotional, motivational, and cognitive development. A positive parent-child relationship helps children improve their problem-solving skills and become better at decision-making. It also allows kids to stay optimistic and confident which can improve the kid’s emotional intelligence.
Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)
On the negative side, parents can sometimes pass down mental health issues to children due to their behavioral and emotional patterns. Every time a kid faces a difficult challenge at home/school/public, it takes a toll on their well-being. These adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) can potentially traumatize a kid.
Factors That May Affect Children’s Mental Health
- Victim of violence and abuse.
- Neglection at home.
- Witnessing violent acts at home/community/school.
- Family member attempting/committing suicide.
- Substance abuse/smoking.
- Mental health issues.
- Parents fighting.
- Divorce/Single parents.
- Incarcerated family member.
According to the National Survey of Children’s Health, one in three children under the age of 18 deal with one or many ACEs. Parent divorce and separations are the highest cause of ACEs. An adverse experience doesn’t denote a future problem but it can impact the risk of mental health problems in the future. It can change the behavior and attitude of the kid. It can sometimes lead to poor educational interest, risky behaviors, and personality changes. ACEs can also increase the risk of suicidal thoughts, depression, and anxiety. The CDC estimates that more than 21 million cases of depression in kids are due to adverse experiences. So, parents should address children’s mental health as a priority and fix these issues before they become greater problems.
As parents, you need to provide a stable home, healthy meals, happy environment and help children understand social norms, and give them all the necessary skills and emotional strength to tackle difficult situations.
Children’s Mental Health Vs Parenting Style
There are different styles of parenting and each can have its impact on the kid’s mental health. In general, parents who are authoritative yet communicative often see success with their children. Authoritative parenting style guides, encourages, and moderate’s kid’s activity. Parents take efforts to provide constructive feedback to help the kid. They also encourage children to share their feelings, express emotions, and ask questions. This approach helps children develop a sense of independence, cooperation, respect, and self-esteem. On the contrary, it can also hurt a child’s mental health due to harsh punishment, spanking, and yelling. This can trigger aggressiveness, low self-esteem, and other mental health issues. Kids might assume that their needs are not essential and experience depression, aggression, and anger management problems.
Permissive parenting also has negative impacts such as less structure in the kid’s life. Parents nurture compassionate kids but they have trouble with self-control, self-regulation, and long-term authority.
Uninvolved parenting can be more harmful to kids’ mental health as they fail to actively involve in kid’s development. It means the child lacks guidance, mentorship, and care. In this kind of environment, they are not attached to the primary caregiver and don’t have a safe and secure environment to dwell in.
It is not just the parenting style but other factors that can also negatively impact a child’s mental health. Examples of how parents affect their children’s mental health include:
- Constant pressure from parents to succeed.
- Stress-related issues during adolescent age.
- Pressure from school/parents/society to excel in something.
- Body shaming the kid.
- Teasing the kid.
- Criticizing and negative talk.
- Failing to address potential risks at home (abuse, death, divorce, new child).
- Dismissing a child’s feelings and emotions.
How Can Parents Improve the Mental Health of Their Children?
If your child is experiencing extreme distress due to certain situations at home, here are some ways to support their mental health.
Spend time with your kid every day to talk about their worries. If they have any, you need to discuss how long the worry time will be. During this conversation, you can ask kids to write/talk about concerns and discuss the problems/fears they face. You must comfort them and try to provide solutions to overcome the fear.
Kids need not be perfect all time. You must encourage them to do better even during failure. Do not damage their social and emotional thoughts. Encourage them to share their thoughts and give them realistic solutions.
Ask your kids to imagine themselves in the future. You can ask them to think about career roles and goals, and importantly you must ask how they wish to grow as a person and the qualities they want to copy from their parents.
As a parent, you need to focus on what’s good for your kid and for the family. Try to praise your kid whenever possible without criticizing their efforts. You should learn to validate their feelings and ensure rules are meant to help and not trouble them. Always have an open conversation with your kid and ensure they feel comfortable. You should also teach them self-care and honor themselves.
You need to ensure your kid eats a healthy meal, spend enough time outdoors, play sports, exercise, and make sure they get enough sleep. You need to help kids focus on healthy habits.
During this process, consult your healthcare provider immediately if you are struggling with any mental illness. It is never too early to seek professional help. If you notice your child is struggling with their mental health, do not hesitate to get help. The earlier you seek treatment, the faster your kid can recover.
Mental health issues are very common and they often start early. Parents affect their children’s mental health in various ways. You can either create a positive or negative impact. A friendly and supportive parent always promotes affection and security and it reduces the possibility of mental disorders. However, it is no one’s fault. Mental illness is like any other illness and you don’t have to blame someone. There’s nothing called perfect parenting so try to do what’s best for your kid and hope for the best outcome.