Children who are confident in their parents' love and acceptance are best able to cope with stress, said Dr Vicknesan Marimuttu, a consultant at the child and adolescent mental wellness service of KK Women's and Children's Hospital's psychological medicine department.
But you may be unknowingly adding to your child's stress by making these common parenting mistakes. Oops!
1. Communicating with your child only when they have a problem
Communicating is not something that is done only when your child has problems or reaches a certain age. By then, it might be too late.
Find the time to talk to them as this gives comfort and builds a sense of confidence and security. It also offers them a natural outlet to express their thoughts, feelings or worries, said Dr Chua Siew Eng, a specialist in psychiatry and consultant at Raffles Counselling Centre.
Create opportunities for parents to communicate and for the child to talk about his problems. Dr Lim said: "Keep communication lines open with your child, as understanding the nature of the problems can help you decide on the next course of action." It could be as simple as asking your child about their day, or even playing computer games and being involved in recreational activities with them.
2. Becoming a part of their problem
Children often face a lot of academic pressure because they want to meet or exceed the expectations of their parents or teachers, said Dr Lim. It is more important to recognise the child's effort and not just his academic results, he said.
3. Burdening your child with your problems
Some children feel stressed when they know about their parents' conflict or marital problems. They even refuse to go to school because they want to stay home to ensure their parents are safe, said Dr Lim.
If the parents are making a major decision, such as a divorce or separation, they should speak to the child to help them make sense of the situation, he said. "This is important so that he does not develop a fear of abandonment."
It is also important to think about what is appropriate for the child to know. If a parent is severely ill, it is important to provide appropriate information to avoid making the child worry unnecessarily, he added.
4. Being too quick to give advice
"One common mistake that many parents make is to jump to conclusions too quickly or dispense advice too readily," said Dr Lim.
Instead, he added, they should take the time to listen to what their child is saying and then paraphrase or repeat what they have heard to check if they have understood their child correctly.
And there will be times when they just needs a listening ear, so parents do not even need to say anything, he said.
5. Solving his problems for him
You should work with them to come up with solutions instead, said a Health Promotion Board (HPB) spokesman. This helps to build their confidence in dealing with future challenges independently. The HPB shares four ways to build resilience in your child.
• When they face a challenge or a setback, get them to use it as an opportunity to learn and grow.
• When they experience intense feelings, identify and label how they are feeling before finding ways to help them manage those feelings. This can include deep breathing, counting to 10 or walking away from the emotional situation.
• Get them to manage stressors by leading a healthy lifestyle. This means eating right, sleeping well and getting enough exercise.
• Be there for them when they need help and support.
By Joyce Teo, The Straits Times, March 2017
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