As mental health continues to remain taboo across sections of society, conversations flowing around it become even more significant. While it’s unfortunate that the pandemic forced us to acknowledge that children have been far affected by mental health issues, it’s not too late to continue such discussions to normalise this. A panel discussion featuring patterns with which we can navigate children’s mental health took place to further this dialogue.
With its second edition of the Mental Health Summit titled Reframe, SheThePeople elevates the conversation flow around the urgency required to discuss the significance of children’s mental health and their wellbeing.
Why having difficult talks with children is crucial
The panel featured Reema Ahmad, a neurolinguistic programming-based life coach, relationship counsellor and co-founder of Candidly, a platform founded in 2017 to explore issues of gender, abuse, sexuality and media and technology. Amita Malhotra Lalwani, the second panellist, is the founder of EqualiTee, India’s first gender-cool merchandise brand challenging stereotypes that box children in a societal framework. Lalwani is also the co-founder of Candidly. The panellists, along with Deepshikha Chakravarti, Executive Editor at SheThePeople, discussed modern-day parenting, the need to stop stigmatising mental health, and the urgency of prioritising the mental well-being of children.
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Changes during and post-pandemic and working with children
Reema Ahmad, a trauma healer and author of Unparenting: Sharing Awkward Truth With Curious Kids, conveyed the significance of finding reasonable and honest ways to have conversations about the mental health impact of the virtual world on children. “We need to make our children aware that the virtual world is a mix of people, that they will have different experiences, and that boundaries, discomfort, healthy and unhealthy conversations must be recognised. Rather than being helicopter parents in controlling their activities, we need to be open about how they’re feeling, and what’s making them feel that way,” she suggested. Although traditionally, online safety conversations have revolved around girls, it’s important to include boys in the conversation, too.
“Let’s tell our children that we respect them as individuals and their voice matters”
Another critical point Malhotra-Lalwani surfaced was that with parents themselves dealing with uncertainty, post-pandemic issues, and personal mental health struggles, encountering a healthy dialogue to lay bare their vulnerability in front of their children is a good example.
Talking Difficult Things With Children
Ahmad pointed out that while discussing sexuality with children is needful it’s rather crucial, “as adults we comprehend what the difference between bodily curiosity and sexual activity is. If we are outraged, it’ll forever be in our kids’ minds that it is something to be ashamed of, and that’s not true. The healthy conversation around it has to begin with parents learning how to communicate further without connecting all the dots too soon, it has to be age-appropriate and free-flowing at the same time.”
“As parents, we need to gather the courage to not feel uncomfortable with difficult conversations and have the patience to let go when it comes to children navigating their decisions. We need to let them be free regardless of the conditioning the society has set for them.”
Malhotra-Lalwani stated that mental health in children also declines because they’re unable to cope with the social conditioning of how they should and should not be. Ahmad likewise sheds light on divorce and children’s well-being saying, “Their world, as they know, shatters when their parents separate. So, you have to make room for that grief too and that has to be understood because if a child is not able to deal with it because they don’t have that space, it will ruin their mental health.”
“Let’s not give falsehood in an attempt to comfort children when it comes to loss, we can not get our children hooked to an idea that is not going to be possible. So, it’s tricky that way.”
Mental health around death and loss needs to be addressed and we need to assist our children in dealing with grief. “There is a need to give space to a child to process emotions, and it’s important to communicate that they are not abandoned,” suggests Malhotra-Lalwani.
While it’s never too late to revamp, revise and adapt, the need to stop seeking social approval for our children is also a major step in helping them navigate their life and not let unreal expectations affect their mental health.
You can watch the session here: