Sunday, 5 December, 2021

Talk With Your Kids


 Nishtha Shrestha

Evolution put us on top of the food chain and we gave ourselves the title of "Most intelligent species". What set us apart from all the billons of known and unknown creatures of the world was language, our innate ability to communicate using words to satisfy our needs. However, this asset of humans is slowly losing its value as we communicate more with our phones than we do with each other. As adults, we are passing on this trend to our children whose sponge-like minds are ready to soak in the new world we have created for them.
A parent knows what is best for their children. It would be wrong to question this natural instinct. But there is a possibility that pressures of the world distract the parents from using this ability to its full potential. It is natural for parents to follow the parenting style they grew up with. But a conscious attempt to evaluate one's parenting skill does more good than harm. There is always a scope for improvement and when the reward is a physically and mentally healthy child, any parent is sure to take up this challenge without a second thought.
It is true that memories are forgotten with lack of use. Autobiographical memories, on the other hand, due to their nature, are recalled easily than the facts and mathematical equations we all have struggled with. Parents believe as the minds of children are developing they forget the painful experiences easily and it is best not to remind them. But this is a teaching of the past as now we know more about the nature of memories and how childhood experiences shape the future personality.
Parents may also think they were never cared for this way by their own parents but that is like not taking medicines for a new illness saying it did not exist before or avoiding technology as it is a new development. Parents need to understand that kids of today may have an easier life in terms of technology and other privileges but there are stressors as well which they never faced as a child. All parents want a better life for their children and the best way is to create a non-judgemental communication to encourage the children to talk about their inner thoughts.
Children are followers. They rely on the parents to understand what is going on with them. How a new experience is handled by a child depends on the reactions of the parents. Children adopt the habits of the parents and therefore it is essential that parents teach healthy behaviours from an early age. It is uncomfortable to talk about painful topics such as trauma, death or abuse with children. Denial is a temporary solution that teaches children avoidance. Sometimes children want to talk to the parents but their limited vocabulary prevents them from expressing properly. In other cases, the child perceives the parent to have recovered from the trauma and feels they should not bother their parents with their problems. These misconceptions can be resolved only if parents start talking with their children.
Healing begins from home. Talking is not expensive. It is not about solving every problem the child shares. It is about making the child feel he/she is heard and this validation gives them the motivation to deal with the problem. Parents need to encourage children to deal with conflicts themselves as it is the small battles that help to tackle the bigger ones. Letting a child know they tried and that support will be provided if needed is a safety net that parents can give to their children in this fast-paced world. Children have some inbuilt coping mechanisms but parents can teach them new ways to handle stress and correct faulty mechanisms their child is following to manage their issues. The sooner we teach children how to deal with their emotions, the easier their lives become as they are better able to understand how they feel, how to resolve and focus on important things in life which for now is studies.
Mental health of children is important. Parents play an important role to nurture as well as teach the children to take care of themselves mentally which is necessary for their overall development of personality. Mentally sound kids are resilient and resilience is a trait which helps them to bounce back despite any difficulties they face in life. Along with teaching conflict management and emoti onal expression, talking with the children helps to build social skills which are necessary for developing new attachments with friends and partners in the future.
A few minutes parents spend with their children can make a big difference. This is definitely more important than the number of likes and comments for the new Facebook or Instagram post one was busy with while the child was trying to speak. So find your children today and use the two simple words, "Let's talk".

The author is a psychologist who is working in the area of mental health for children