There is a well-known belief (proven by many theorists and studies) that the atmosphere in which a child grows up sets the tone on how that child will view the world. Their experiences with their parents, school, friends will shape up their personalities. If the living and growing conditions of a child are not optimal then it may adversely impact the growth of a child.
According to World Health Organization (WHO), around 10% of children and adolescents worldwide experience a mental disorder. Sadly, a majority of them do not receive the support and care needed.
Do you know that the third leading cause of death in the age group of 15-19 years is suicide?
Those stats have increased with the onset of COVID-19 and the pandemic culture that we are living in. India also saw an increase in mental disorders in children because of reasons such as lack of exposure to the outside world, less interaction with peers or inadequate outdoor activities to develop their cognitive abilities.
These facts bring our attention to a serious issue- the growing number of mental illnesses and disorders amongst children and teens.
What can we do about it?
Children are most affected by what goes on around them. So, parents need to be extra-vigilant and ensure that they are not hampering the development of their children. While the cause of some disorders are genetic and there is nothing the parents could do to prevent it but how they can deal with it is what we will see here-
Parents could use what I call the “S-O-U-P” technique (not edible but is beneficial for sure.)
O – Observe
It is very difficult to be the parents of children with mental illness. But, you need to accept your child the way he/she(they) is. Support goes a long way in making a child feel protected and makes them feel that they are not alone. Support may look like an encouraging nod, for them to try on new things or the comforting assurance of “it is all right, it’s not your fault” when they accidentally break something.
Observing what your child is doing and how do they manage their behavior and emotions is something that parents need to be on the lookout for. While an occasional burst is okay but the increased frequency of such outbursts may indicate an underlying behavioral problem. You can be aware of these only if you observe the signs that your child may exhibit.
Understand that your child will not be like your neighbor’s kid. Constant comparison will not make him/her(they) be like them. Furthermore, children learn and grow at a pace that is comfortable to them. The constant pushing and comparing them to others will harm their self-esteem and worthiness. Parents need to understand that they cannot interfere in their growing process. They can just provide them with the right opportunities and environment.
As the primary caregiver, the onus of taking care of children be it ordinary or special needs children falls upon parents or whoever they are most in contact with. Children need to be provided with a caring and nurturing environment where they are encouraged to do things and not shamed when they make a mistake. There are ways to teach a child something or even give tough love. That doesn’t include being verbally or physically abusive with them. It is the responsibility of parents to provide and cater to the emotional needs of a child just as much as it is essential to the cater physical needs.
The next article will explore some of the most common mental disorders in children.
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