Train parents to develop kids' emotional, mental well-being

Posed photo of a depressed student. Stress-related, anxiety and depressive disorders are common conditions seen at IMH's Child Guidance Clinics, which treat children aged from six to 18.
Posed photo of a depressed student. Stress-related, anxiety and depressive disorders are common conditions seen at IMH's Child Guidance Clinics, which treat children aged from six to 18.PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER

The school-related mental health issues that teenagers face in our society today are cause for concern (More teens in Singapore seeking help at IMH for school stress, April 11).

While it is good to know that there are avenues to seek help and that schools are proactively addressing this issue, there is also a pressing and urgent need to prepare those who are closest to home for the child - the parents.

In the report, Madam Choy Wai Yin, director of the Ministry of Education's (MOE) guidance branch at the student development curriculum division, said that MOE has increased efforts to raise awareness among parents on mental wellness for their children.

This is a step in the right direction.

Two separate local studies have shown that when parents exert a positive and affirming influence in their children's lives, these young people experience lower levels of stress.

One study of Singaporean children found that seven-year-old children whose parents showed more positive support towards them had lower tendencies to react to stress negatively, such as with fear and anger, and were able to regulate their emotions better.

Another study of local secondary school children found that students who perceive their parents as being more "responsive, supportive and involved in their learning" experienced lower anxiety in learning mathematics, whereas students who perceived their parents as using more coercive discipline methods experienced higher anxiety.

The positive impact that parents can have over their children to mitigate stress and anxiety should not be underestimated.

However, it takes more than good intentions and a desire to help our children.

At times, even well-meaning parents may not realise the levels of stress and anxiety that our children face, particularly in the adolescent years when they are navigating social relationships, a heavier academic workload and a natural desire for individuation.

At Focus on the Family Singapore, we encourage parents to be proactive in equipping themselves with the skills needed to be parent-coaches to their children.

This includes engaging them creatively such that they share their genuine thoughts and emotions, and helping them to problem-solve on their own.

The tween and teenage years can be a challenging time for children, but with the right support from parents, children can emerge more resilient than ever.

Judith Alagirisamy

Head of Research and Development

Focus on the Family Singapore

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 22, 2019, with the headline 'Train parents to develop kids' emotional, mental well-being'. Print Edition | Subscribe