Want a child who responds calmly to conflict, distress and bullies?
Mental wellness, depression and anxiety is one of the top concerns among parents, especially with child suicide and self-harm at an all-time high in developed countries.
With more of my own friends opening up about their battles with depression, including my 12 to 14-year-old dance class mates, I’m increasingly concerned and want to know what I can do to help.
I attended Life Beyond Grades‘ panel discussion around the topic of nurturing happy and resilient children to learn what our Ministry of Education and the Institute of Mental Health advise we do.
Not everyone has the time to attend talks, so I wanted to share my key take-outs from this talk. I hope this can help you if you’re in a challenging situation, either personally or with somebody in your life. These pointers apply not just to children, but us as adults too, since mental illness can affect anyone. I’ve included snippets of the speakers’ videos in my Instagram Highlights “PARENTING” as well.
What I found useful from the experts:
- There is a distinction between having emotions and our behaviors.
All emotions are normal, so we should acknowledge the emotions.
How we behave to express our emotions, however, have appropriate and inappropriate ways. For instance, throwing a chair at someone else is not an appropriate way to express anger, since this can physically and emotionally hurt someone else. A more appropriate way is to walk away and punch a pillow first, then calming down to think through what got you so angry.
Acknowledge your child’s emotions, using phrases like “Sounds like you are angry with xyz. Shall we go to a quiet corner to think about this first?”
2. Encourage your child to share their concerns, so you can identity the element(s) that cause the anxiety and discuss different perspectives of the situation
Sometimes, the trigger to your child’s distressed could be something we adults do not expect, so listen and clarify what your child is feeling.
For example, “Your expression changed when xyz did xyz. What are you disturbed by? How do you feel?”
3. Respond calmly to your child’s anxiety
Our children are a mirror of our emotions. If you react dramatically or anxiously, this confirms your child’s anxiety and usually amplifies the situation into a downward spiral.
Instead, take a deep breath and respond soothingly to reduce your child’s perception of the fear or threat.
Be a role model of calmness, productivity and positivity, so that your child can learn how to cope with anxiety in a calm way.
4. Don’t say “Don’t worry”
This makes your child feel small and that their fears are not significant.
Listen with your heart and not your mind.
Allow them to speak and observe their expressions to understand.
5. Not every confrontation is bullying
Bullying is a huge concern among parents.
The experts clarified that bullying is an intention to harm, practiced over a prolonged period.
Bullying is not another adult telling your child to move to the side so they can walk past.
Bullying is not another child snatching your child’s pencil.
Bullying is not two children getting into their fist fight once because they disagreed on something.
As the adult, we have a responsibility to role model when our child meets with a disagreement or challenge.
Yes, as a protective and loving parent, our instinct might be to yell back and demand punishment.
However, what does this teach our children about how to manage conflict?
Instead, gather information about what has happened:
- What does your child say and feel about the situation?
- How did the other child or parent perceive the situation?
There is a high likelihood that the other party had no intention to harm and was just expressing something in a way that is different from yours.
These are the key points I found useful from the experts’ talks and the panel discussion. There were many other interesting points, which I’ll share in future blog posts. Sign up to our email list to be the first to know when these posts are live!
Which point did you find most useful?
Has your child expressed anxiety before? How did you help your child manage her or his emotions? Share your thoughts in the comments below!