Childhood is full of fun and to be enjoyed. But, with the cares and anxieties of the modern lifestyle, isn’t it a challenge to raise worry-free children? Here are tips to help you.
By Anju Ann Mathew
Think of children and probably the first thing that pops into your mind is their laughter and carefree behaviour. But children can have their own worries, especially once they step into school. They may feel anxious as they have to meet a whole bunch of new people and build new relationships. They might have worries such as: “Why don’t they want to play with me?” or “Will my parents scold me if I show them the results of this test?”
So, if you feel that your child is under a lot of pressure and is worrying too much, here are 7 things you can do:
1. Invest in family bonding: In every family, there has to be understanding and respect between the members, primarily between the husband and wife. If you and your spouse are constantly squabbling, it could have an adverse effect on your child and leave her feeling stressed and worried. As parents, you need to learn to resolve your issues and try your best not to let your child know about them, especially if she is an adolescent.
2. Listen attentively: Your child may be going through problems that he may not want to share with anybody. You have to reach out to him and assure him that he can turn to you for comfort, no matter what the problem is. At the same time, you must teach him to be independent and deal with his problems.
3. Make health a priority: According to research, a lot of children do not have nutritious food and this affects them adversely. Nutrition plays a primary role in mental health, and poor nutrition can lead to problems such as anxiety and depression. A study titled, ‘Relationship Between Diet and Mental Health in Children and Adolescents: A Systematic Review’ by Adrienne O’Neil et al was published in the American Journal of Public Health (Oct 2014). It states, ‘A habitually poor diet (e.g., increased consumption of Western processed foods) is associated with a greater likelihood of or risk for depression and anxiety.’ Apart from their child’s mental health, obesity is another issue that parents need to be address. A poor diet can also lead to weight gain and the problems and worries resulting from it. So, it is very important that you provide your children with nutritious food.
4. Keep an eye out for bullying:Bullying is common in schools. With stricter rules and restrictions, the incidence of bullying has been brought down but it has not been eradicated. If your child is worried about going to school, it might be because she is getting bullied. Keep tabs on your child’s activities in school. Bullying can cause mental or physical scarring and your child will need help. Ensure that you talk to her or get her to meet a counsellor who can guide her.
5. Restrict TV and Internet use: Your child might be worried if he thinks the world is a mean place. This kind of thinking is generally caused by overexposure to television and the Internet. The acts of violence that are shown on mass media can tamper with his way of thinking and cause him to believe that the world around him is mean and worse than it actually is. Such thoughts can lead to anxiety and make him scared of the outside world. This phenomenon is called the ‘Mean World Syndrome’ (a term first described by George Gerbner in the 1970s). So, as a parent, you should restrict the time your child spends on electronic media and supervise what he is watching. Never allow your child to spend time alone in the digital world. It can be dangerous as evident from the recent online game called the ‘Blue Whale Challenge’, which led to suicides and suicide bids by teenagers in many parts of the world.
6. Give them facts: Your child might have got wrong information from her friends about something like terrorism that has left her terribly worried. It is your job to reassure her, to tell her that she is safe and that terrorism won’t affect her in the way she believes. Also, be careful about how you react to things. Try to keep a positive atmosphere around your child. In the movie ‘Life is Beautiful’ for instance, the hero protects his son to such an extent that the boy doesn’t even realise they are trapped in a concentration camp.
7. Highlight the good parts: Your child may tell you about the different things that happened to him during the day. There is bound to be a mix of good and bad things that happened. Help him to get past the negatives and focus on the positives. Teach him that it is always best to overcome the bad things that happened during the day with simple things that made him smile. That will help him deal with his problems better.
As a parent, you need to play the role of being a guiding light to your child. You need to tell her that worrying doesn’t really help and show her how to shrug off her anxieties and live a worry-free life.
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Anju Ann Mathew