Understanding Your Child’s Mental Health as a Parent

Reena was sitting in her posh office at Bandra engrossed in reading an article on Child psychology in India Times when Mary her secretary informed her that Mr. and Mrs. Shyam have come to meet her. Reena was a renowned child psychologist.

It’s our 16-year-old son, Amit, said, Mrs. Shyam as she entered Reena’s chamber with her husband. We are very much concerned about him. Please have a seat first Mr. & Mrs. Shyam requested Reena. As they seated the fine lines of worry on their faces were more apparent. Hmm, yes, now tell me about your son, asked Dr. Reena with a smile.

Dr. Reena my son Amit, spoke. Shyam has always been an intelligent, exuberant child. An all-rounder who loves to participate in all the activities in the school. However, over the past few months, he has transformed into a brooding sulking self. He stays secluded in his room and rarely conversed with us or his friends. His grades are slipping down & the teachers often complain about his non-participation in any event.

We tried talking to him many times, but he has completely shut us from him, added the concerned parents. After talking to the parents in detail, Reena agreed to be Amit’s counselor.

The first look at Amit and Reena saw a bewildered-looking boy who seems to be all lost. In the next few sessions with Amit, Dr. Reena understood that he was the classic case of the old school of parenting, where the parents assigned the path of a child with lists of restrictions and expect a child to adhere to it. They pay negligible attention to what the child desires and wishes.

emotional patient with psychologist holding his head

In one of his sessions, Amit told Reena, “My parents are doctors and aspire me to be one. Since my early days of childhood, it was fed in me that I have to be a doctor and so should excel in my academics. But as I grew up, I realized that my interest lies somewhere else. But whenever I tried talking it out with my parents, I was shrugged off immediately. I soon realized it’s no point talking to them as they will not understand my dreams because they consider them frivolous”.

In the next session, he said, “My parents raised me with a list of Dos & Don’t and was not permitted to bypass these lists. I was not allowed to discuss much but only “listen & follow”. “To please my parents, I kept following what they wanted me to do”. “But, with time, I feel this weight of expectations is blowing off my mind and made me a recluse”.

Amit was a classic case of how parental pressure can impact a child’s mental health.

Reena understood it was not Amit but his parents who needed counseling. When the parents were, apprised about it, they were shocked. They were oblivious to their son’s sufferings as they always thought that they were giving their child their best. I thought as a father I’m securing a formidable future for my son, said Mr. Shyam, sighing heavily. I and my wife never felt the need to discuss it, as we felt that he is not mature enough to make decisions (a common error made by most parents). Mr. Shyam then confessed, that on many occasions they trivialize Amit’s efforts to speak his mind on his career inclinations and other things.

Dr. Reena listened to the distressed parents patiently and then spoke factually. “Mr. and Mrs. Shyam, first you’ve to learn to acknowledge that your son is no more a young child but a maturing-up adult. He has his own set of thoughts, dreams, and aspirations. He needs to be heard and convinced with reasonable conversation and not with a list of conditions.

There is a fine line between caring and caring too much. Often, we as parents make a common error by thinking that we are providing a good future for our kids and sideline what the child wants, especially when the child is now a growing teenager.

Your son’s mood swings, sulking, insecurity, and short tempers are an outcome of this frustration building inside him. The frustration of not being heard and understood by his parents.

Reena then paused for a while and spoke again. You both need to open up the channel of flexible communication with your son and be good listeners rather than dominating speakers. Give a handful ear to his worries & dilemmas. Do not shoo him away when he wants to ask questions and discuss things related to him. Appreciate your teen’s efforts and encourage him to Ask, Discuss & Decide.

The key to your child’s exuberant growth is as a parent you have to be his companion, mentor, and not an Authoritative Preacher.

The Generic Error We Make as Parents –

  • Parents, in their quest to give the best to their natural descendants(children), try to push them on an assigned path. And, often remain oblivious to a need of a young mind, who has arrived in this world with its temperament, personality, and goals to achieve.
person discussing his mental health issues with a patient
  • Childhood should never be anything like a hamster wheel. And, if you’re following it then as parents you need to stop and allow kids to choose their path and set their own pace. While setting a goal for them it should be more of their vision and not yours. And, whenever they want to change direction, slow down, or stop completely, as parents we must allow the child the freedom to do so.

  • As a parent, you shouldn’t assume that you command your adolescent life. Do not follow an iron fist methodology, trust me, it will backfire. You’ve to be a progressive mentor that provides them with the “Option to explore and choose”. However, discipline them where necessary, and advise them but without sounding commandant.

Nurture your child’s strengths and help them with their weaknesses instead of forcing attributes upon them.

Your growing-up child is already going through the traumatized stage of life where they are experiencing lots of physiological and psychological changes. These changes leave them perplexed and uneasy. Moreover, their quest to fit into society makes their behavioral anatomy more edgy and volatile.

man in black hoodie sitting on a brown couch

It is at this time parents should transform their role to be their companions and give them much-needed support. Guide them but do not control them, be their confidant and encourage the young minds to discuss & agree.

While conversing with your young teen, lighten up the conversation with humor & affability.

It’s absolutely ‘OK’ to help your child to set expectations, have a plan, and guide them to develop aims and aspirations in life. But setting too high expectations can be counterproductive. A study conducted by Psychological Associations reveals that children who said their parents wanted them to excel in academics/career and other related areas walk on their assigned path showed signs of depression, anxiety, lower self-esteem, and behavior issues.

grayscale photo of a man covering his face with hands

Amit’s parents finally understood the relevance of healthy freedom to be given to a child to decide. And, the pertinence of open companionship, and communication with their child. Months later, when they visited Dr. Reena’s clinic again, she saw three happy content faces.

Communication & Companionship are the keys to a healthy relationship between parents and their children.

The interaction between parent and child imprints a lasting impact on youngster growing years. An embracive approach nurtured with love and reinforced with moderate discipline leaves a stimulating effect on adolescent growth & development.

A good relationship with the parent is like a cocoon for a young mind to feel Safe & Relaxed.

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Ankur R. Gupta
Former Human Resource personnel, now a Certified Content Creator, Blogger & Author. My work is extensively inspired by a famous saying - if you're looking out for someone to bring change in your life, look into the Mirror. You're the key to your happiness. My writings reflect on the relevance of self-love, self-development, real happiness, motivated lifestyle, and health. I am always curious to know more about the human psyche and the world around me. I firmly believe in you're the key to your happiness. My writings reflect on the relevance of self-love, self-development, real happiness, motivated lifestyle, and health. I am always curious to know more about the human psyche and the world around me.