A child’s emotional well-being is just as important as their physical health.
by Jaclyn Lutanco-Chua, based on an interview with Dr. Queena Lee-Chua
According to the World Health Organization, 1 out of 5 children experiences a mental health disorder in a given year. Mental disorders among children are described as serious changes in the ways children typically learn, behave, or handle their emotions. Examples include attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), behavior disorders, mood and anxiety disorders, autism spectrum disorders, substance use disorders, etc. Symptoms usually start in early childhood, although some of the disorders may develop throughout the teenage years.
“A lot of parenting practices these days may contribute inadvertently to the rise of mental health issues among tweens and teens,” says bestselling author, university professor, and clinical psychologist Dr. Queena Lee-Chua. “This means that while your toddler may seem fine right now, you might see changes in 10 years’ time. And this is what I am worried about.”
According to Dr. Lee-Chua, here are some things parents can do to support their toddler’s mental well-being:
- Don’t post things about them on social media, even if it’s about good things (i.e. high grades in the report cards). “We think the kids like it, and when they are young they do like it but it’s only because we have brainwashed them into thinking that it’s a compliment,” says Dr. Lee-Chua. “But when they’re older, they start to see and feel unreasonable pressure, and when they cannot cope that is when the real problem starts.”
2. Instill an attitude of gratitude. “Many of these grand first birthday parties that we hold for our kids lead to an entitlement mentality, which we end up wanting to curb when our kids become older,” she says.
3. Limit gadget time. “The scary thing about gadgets is they are marketed as something that will make your child smarter,” Dr. Lee-Chua points out. “But no research in the world has ever said that your kid will have an edge in school if you start them in gadgets early. Rather, it is the kids who are allowed to move and explore who do better.”
- Let them fight their own battles. “Bullying goes on in every school. It takes many forms, and while I don’t condone it, sometimes the perpetrators do not mean to harm anyone,” shares Dr. Lee-Chua. “If the bullying is physical, then definitely you should step in, but in many cases, let the school handle it, don’t quarrel with other parents. Often it is better for your kids to learn how to befriend others, lose a friend, and become a friend again. That is a life skill that parents cannot do for their kids.”
Dr. Lee-Chua adds that because today’s children spend so much time on their gadgets, they have very few social skills. “If you deprive them of a real-life [by shielding them from bullying, they won’t know how to deal with different or difficult people when they grow up,” she says.
5. Don’t live your life through your children. “Live FOR your children,” Dr. Lee-Chua points out. “Let them make mistakes, let them grow, and not just use them as bragging rights for your own ego.”
When you nurture and support your child’s mental health, it will positively impact his or her development, educational attainment, relationships with others, and the potential to live as a fulfilling and productive adult member of society.
Read the entire series from the interview with Dr. Queena Lee-Chua here: