Updated: Aug 26, 2021
You may have noticed that we've been writing a lot about self-care recently. It is because the world as we've known it has changed dramatically over the last nine months. With significant change comes massive challenges. I've learnt a lot about digital wellness by comparing my childhood to that of children now. Our children are growing up in a very different world from the one we grew up in.
This tech world is dynamic; the rules change almost every day. There are etiquette and unspoken rules. In my view a tricky thing to navigate. I've learnt that there is also a delicate balance between healthy screen time and unhealthy screen time. Each child's screen time needs also vary. For example, a child playing a video game versus learning to code are two very different screen experiences with different outcomes. You may find your child complain when you take away their iPad because they didn't get enough "play" time. As parents, we sometimes lump screen time together and take it away. As the school year progresses and online learning becomes a mainstay, children will continue to use the internet to communicate with their schoolmates and friends. Unfortunately, issues like bullying have translated online and can seriously affect your child's mental health. Growing up is a confusing time for all children as they're learning how to "fit in" to society, learning things about themselves and finding their bearings.
Fortunately, as parents, we can teach our children how to prioritize their mental health and set boundaries to become resilient and deal with the demands of growing up online.
Mental Health, Self Esteem and Healthy Conversation
Getting children to open up is not an easy task. Trust us when we say it takes a lot to build a relationship with a child that allows them to be forthcoming with their feelings or tell us about the events that are happening to them. Children learn very quickly to build boundaries when they've been criticized. It is a natural response because of the negativity associated with the interaction. It is self-preserving to avoid negative interactions and situations. As they get older, they may display passive aggressiveness and avoid confrontation.
Now think about yourself and when you were growing up. Did anyone ever sit you down and ask you how you felt? Did they ever validate your feelings or experiences by telling you it was okay, normal even that you had certain feelings towards an event or a situation? Think about how safe you feel when you can share something with someone openly, knowing that it was judgement-free. Think also about the times you've shared something with someone, and you were met with judgement. Children, too, deserve a space where they can vent, communicate and make sense of their world in a judgement-free zone. Building that relationship with your child is going to be one of the most rewarding experiences of parenthood. At the top of the most important self-care tips are allowing your child to reflect on how they're feeling and express it in a way that develops a loving and respectful relationship with themselves.
Let your child know that it is essential that they acknowledge when they struggle with their emotions to "make sense" of those feelings. One way you can do this at home is to do a journaling activity a few times a week. Here you and your child can do this activity together. You can draw or write or doodle the things that make us happy, upset, causing us to be anxious that week, what we're worried about. Turn this time into a bonding experience. As you do this more regularly, you will find it is the easiest and quickest way to get your child to open up. Remember, this only works when you do not "punish" your child for being honest. If they made a mistake and feel guilty about it, and share that with you, remember to acknowledge how your child feels, how you feel about it, and talk about the consequences. It is a more positive approach to discipline. As your child gets older and they encounter more complex situations, they will be more likely to share that with you.
When you think about self-care, it is essentially integrating positive habits into a daily routine. Set aside some number hours in the week for your child to be in a low-stress situation as this will balance out the over-stimulating screen time throughout their day. You can do this through activities like swimming, yoga, playtime in a park, painting, or journaling. Think of the type of activities that give your child the chance to 'reset' their mind and articulate their feelings.
As a parent, it is also crucial that you do not spend all your energy trying to 'treat' your child. That is the job of their therapist. Instead, work on creating a loving and safe environment in your home. We understand that as a parent, you can be so in tune with your child's emotions that watching them struggle with their mental health can be very disheartening. Do realize that this is not a permanent situation and that there is always help available.