Childhood– in particular, adolescence – is a vulnerable period of growth and development and therefore, rightly referred to as the ‘wonder years’ in a teenager’s life.
A lot of aspects—from environmental factors, parental relations, the collective response of family members to a stressful situation, peer groups and rapport with teachers—all play a vital role in shaping a child’s personality. The very essence of confidence-building measures with children begin with how adults respond to a situation in front of them.
Evolvement and emotional intelligence
Each child has a unique temperament, set of qualities, interests and abilities. As humans we are emotional beings. Our emotions are regulated by our mind, being a function of our brain. The limbic structures in the brain are involved in the emotional experience.
During the adolescent phase, there is an upsurge of hormones. The brain also reshapes and there is the process of brain maturation, particularly of the prefrontal cortex (meant to regulate emotions), and the process continues till the late 20s.
There is a conflict between dependence and need to explore independence, at the same time a heightened experience of emotions, exaggerated emotional and behavioural expressions.
Parents, this is your guide to manage a child’s meltdown. However, please note that in case of persistence of significant mood swings/ disturbance or distress, one should seek timely professional help for their kid.
- You are the role model, watch yourself first: As parents you are the child’s first teachers and role models. Child learns a lot through observation. Your priorities, values, how you express emotions, how you face problems and arrive at conclusions, your body language, your communication style are all closely observed and imprinted in the mind of the child. So be watchful of yourself. Have a troubleshooting approach rather than a problem pointing one.
- Differences in parenting ideologies are normal. Communicate to your child that two intelligent people under one roof may have differing views, but that’s not a conflict: As parents you might have individual differences on issues, ideologies, lifestyle preferences and priorities. However, try to merge your egos. As parents you should be one, thinking like a unit. Plan what you need to discuss with your child. Make sure you do not demean each other in front of the child. Remember the child’s identity also depends on how the child sees the parent and his/ her connect with you. Try not to uproot the very roots of relationship with each parent. This shall help your child in developing self-esteem, clarity, trust and respect in oneself and the parents.
- Avoid being a helicopter parent: Try to facilitate positive platforms for learning and development. Encourage problem-solving skills. Allow the child to face problems rather than over-shielding or taking the escape route. The child should learn to accept that problems are a part of life. Yes, one needs to use a healthy mindful approach to solve them. Rather than engaging in blame game, grudges and self-victimisation, one needs to try and see how one can resolve issues in a positive healthy manner. An approach of trying to find a solution, taking responsibility and calming those agitated around you is helpful in developing healthy problem-solving skills.
- Listening, trusting and bonding time: As adults all of us are busy, but the value of time remains the same be it for an adult or a child. Therefore, don’t undervalue the importance of a child’s time that he/she has sought from you. Develop a listening approach without jumping to quick conclusions, judgements and immediate advices. This will help the child in developing trust. If you see your child is opening up to you naturally about his or her fears, concerns, unpleasant experiences—give yourself a pat on the back. As a parent, you are on the right track.
- When everyone’s in a bad mood: A lot of times, we may end up in a scenario wherein everyone’s in a bad mood and nobody seems to be talking logic. This leads to exchange of negative talk, judgements being passed, vitriolic blame game—all witnessed by the little people—magnifying the problem and exposing the crevices in the family structure. What can one do? Take a breather, give everyone some time to calm down, strengthen the inner homeostasis through the parasympathetic nervous system and then come up with logical solutions. Make it a point that it is communicated to all that nobody will raise the past deliberations and will only live the present.
- ‘We’ activities for wellness: Such activities strengthen feelings of togetherness and aid in bonding. Such activities could be as simple as playing a game of cards or some board games together.
- Communication and Catharsis: Keep eye contact and channels of communication alive, either end. Pent up emotions need to be released allowing ventilation and catharsis. Energies need to be channelised through constructive hobbies, regular exercise or yoga, sleep hygiene and physical sport.
Dr. Malhotra practises as Director, Mental Health and Behavioral Sciences, Max Hospitals. He is a senior consultant psychiatrist, psychotherapist and drug deaddiction specialist. He is associated with programmes on parenting and school mental health.