Ministry of Health Singapore. All Rights Reserved.
Your thoughts create new realities!
Adam walks through the door. “Hi Son, how was school today?” Mum asks. Adam doesn’t respond, but slouches off into his room, shedding his school bag on the floor along the way. He slumps into his chair and sits, staring moodily at nothing. He stays like that for an age, reflecting on how hopeless he feels life is.
School is tough; there’s no denying it. Our youngsters don’t just face examination stress, but also have to deal with peer pressure, navigating social networks and sometimes, bullies, too. At the same time, they face physical, psychological and emotional changes as they develop. Sometimes, it feels like there’s too much to handle, and the easiest thing to do is to not do anything.
Mum sighs and looks at Adam’s retreating back helplessly. She wants to help but isn’t sure how. There is a twinge in her heart as she wonders how Adam’s friends are coping.
Sound familiar? Adam is like many teenagers struggling with school and puberty at the same time. The good news is that our youth all have the potential to be resilient, and as parents, we can do our part to nurture their resilience.
Youth - ah, the image of energy and creativity! Certainly parents want to see their children blossom and fulfil their potential. This happens when their mental well-being is strengthened, and then, as youth is wont to believe, anything is possible!
You can help, by building your kids’ protective mechanisms so they can cope with life’s challenges and bounce back stronger.
Down the corridor, Bernie has just come home, and everyone knows it.
“Hi Mum, I’m hooome!” he shouts. He then launches into a lively stream of chatter, telling his mum and younger sister what transpired at school that day. As he talks, he is busy unpacking his bag, already sorting out what work needs to be done for the day and the rest of the week.
“Wah, teacher said next week’s test is going to be hard,” he says cheerfully. “Chan says he’s going to beat me this time. We’ll see about that!”
In school, Bernie had felt his heart drop when he first heard how hard the test would be. That feeling of despondency swiftly turned to anger when Chan began to taunt him. Fortunately, Bernie quickly got a handle on his feelings and, instead, developed an action plan to ace the paper. By the time he got home, he felt more hopeful and confident.
Bernie’s ability to maintain a positive attitude in the face of an upcoming challenge displays emotional intelligence. This helps him manage his emotions when things get difficult.
Emotional intelligence is also about being able to express how you feel. Sharing and discussing such emotions helps to release the stress and build confidence. As parents, we want to be there for our kids when they need us. Take time to catch up with your children on a regular basis, and listen sincerely to what they have to say. Try not to judge, but empathise and encourage instead.
Adam’s mum walks in with a drink for him. “Is it that last-minute test the teacher is giving tomorrow?” she asks. Adam nods glumly. He is not prepared for the test and doesn’t know how to get started. The pile of homework for other subjects feels overwhelming.
“Why don’t you make a list of the topics you need to study?” Mum suggests. “Then think of which ones you want to start with.” Adam considers this. He thinks… if I finish my homework first and revise for the test last, it will still be fresh in my mind. But if the homework takes too long, I might not have enough time for revision. He ponders this while Mum gets a little worried wondering what’s going on inside his head.
Finally, he says, “I’ll make a list.” Inside, he’s already decided to set a time limit for his homework, so that he can concentrate on his test after that. He’s rather pleased with himself for coming up with the plan.
Adam has taken a step in positive functioning—the ability to learn, make good decisions and value oneself. Such behaviour allows a person to adapt to different situations.
Exploring and evaluating positive solutions equip young people with a pool of answers they can draw on quickly. If Adam allows Mum to guide him, he will also learn to identify helpful and unhelpful solutions, forming the foundation for more rational decision-making in the future.
Mum did a great job too, being patient with Adam, and gently suggesting instead of dictating what he should do. Allowing him to evaluate choices and solve problems builds both his capabilities and confidence.
Bernie wants to get a head-start on that test, but his little sister wants to play, and is dancing all around him. “Kor-kor, Kor-kor, Kor-kor,” she sings, overjoyed that her brother is home.
Bernie laughs and tickles her. “I need to study. Leave me alone, or I’ll eat you up!” His sister giggles.
Social intelligence refers to the ability to build and maintain good relationships, whether among friends or family. This is especially important for children and teens, who enjoy and appreciate the support of their social network. Children who have developed social intelligence are able to recognise when they are distressed and will seek help from friends and trusted adults. Having such ties teaches them to value friendships, and encourages good social behaviour, too.
As a parent, you can encourage your child to talk more about his or her friends. It won’t hurt to get to know them yourself, too. Experiencing joy and gratitude is another way to build social intelligence and a great means of doing so as a family would be to engage in volunteer work together.
Adam is stumped by a question. “What a loser,” he thinks. But then Mum reminds him, “Oh, I’m sure you’ll figure it out. You always do, remember? Even for that super-hard topic last term.” She ruffles his hair.
Adam squirms and scowls, but squares his shoulders a little as he reaches for his calculator. He’s going to give it another try.
When you help your children reflect on their strengths, they draw courage to persevere. Make the effort to get to know your kids. Encourage them when they fail, and celebrate with them when they succeed. This builds their self-esteem.
Authenticity is important to youths, and you can help by letting them know they are always worth listening to.
So there you have it: four domains that contribute to healthy minds in our youths, and how parents can strengthen them.
Remember that your children are never too young and never too old to benefit from some nurturing in these areas. Regardless of their stage of development, you can try the tips given above and draw upon your knowledge of your own children to guide them along.
If you ever feel stuck and frustrated, you may want to consider seeking advice from a professional, such as a psychologist, counsellor or any other mental health clinician.
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This article was last reviewed on
Monday, August 17, 2020
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