We do our best as parents to provide loving care and help our kids be successful in the future. As we all live more busier and stressful lives, a child's emotional development has become less important. We think schools should be responsible for all aspects of social and emotional development, when it is really parents who have the power to prevent future mental illnesses.
Mental disorders in children are certainly on the rise, yet a child's mental health may not be a priority over good academic performance and sticking to what is for most kids a very full schedule of activities.
What a parent does or doesn't do through parenting ensures mental wellness today and in the future. How we were parented has a huge impact on how we ourselves navigate parenting and the reality is in this ever changing world we. We all need expert guidance on how to stress inoculate our kids and how to cultivate coping skills, resilience, and grit.
I see even the most well meaning parents inadvertently worsen their child's mental health and here are some of the biggest mistakes parents make.
#1 Using Good Grades as the Benchmark of Mental Health
Using your kid's good grades as a measure of their mental health is one of the biggest mistakes that I see parents make today. Most kids of all ages can hold it together at school, and some can even perform at very high academic levels despite having clinical issues such as anxiety, ADHD, OCD or even depression. I have even had top students appear to be doing well but inside have suicidal thoughts.
#2 Missing Signs of Stress and Anxiety
It is important to look for physical signs of stress, such as gastrointestinal symptoms, sleep problems, headaches, or any changes in behavior. If your kid isn't smiling at least 50 percent of the time, lean in and spend quality time with your kid because they likely have stressors they aren't managing well. And if your child is struggling with a clinical issue, those good grades won't get them as far as investing in mental wellness.
#3 Expecting Perfection
We all want the best for our children, but our kids don't have to be the best at everything. Since when did earning a “B” become a bad thing? If we are always pushing for academic excellence at the cost of self-care, social-emotional development and how about regular joy and fun, then how will our kids develop into well adjusted and regulated adults?
When kids are told to be the best all the time, then they develop a deep inner critic. When things aren't just so, then they can't turn their work in or worse yet, they avoid pushing themselves outside their comfort zones. As someone who works with many high achievers, many of them have such a self loathing that developed from perfectionism.
#4 Trying to Keep Up With the Joneses
Just because Becky told you Emma is in three AP classes doesn't mean your daughter has to be in three also. Your kid needs to be where they need to be and nowhere else and that may mean shutting down your social media for a while.
I will never forget when I was an undergraduate, another student kept asking me what my grades were on tests and I just avoided answering him. At the end of the term, the teacher announced I was the top student in the class and my peer came up to me and said I thought you did bad because you never told me your grades. I felt bad for this obviously insecure young man and it cemented that I had to take my own path and never care what anyone else was doing.
#5 Overscheduling Them
I know you want this, that and the other thing for your kid and on his resume too! Overscheduling your kid is terrible for their nervous system because we all need down time. You have to power down in order to power up the brain.
Today, kids are running on empty with not enough sleep and free space for creative thinking and activities. Think about Bill Gates having the free time in his garage to create personal computers, and what your kid could be inventing or doing if they had some white space.
#6 Not Role Modeling Self Care
We are all just so busy and manymost of us have two working parents with a whole lot of stuff to do and activities to get to. Mothers in particular think we can be superheroes (I mean of course we can!) but at the cost of a lack of self care because we always put everyone else first.
When we role model self-care, we show our kids just how to take care of our brain and body. This valuable lesson is something our kids will follow as children and carry into adulthood when they need it to face some of life's biggest challenges.
#7 Not Letting Your Kid Fail
Boy it is painful watching your child mess up but it is one of life's most valuable lessons. When we fail, the goal is to learn how to manage all of that uncomfortableness that comes with failure and learn from our mistakes. Solving problems comes from our own experiences and without trial and error, our kids will be over reliant on us and lack good coping skills.
Helping your child feel self-confident and powerful comes through earned grit and resilience. You can't transfer your experiences to your child, as they need to earn that self-confidence they get from figuring stuff out!
#8 Bubble Wrap Parenting™
Doing everything for your child and not letting them experience any uncomfortable sensations or emotions, is a sure fire way to cultivate poor stress tolerance in a child.
Having good coping skills is the key to lifelong mental wellness. Life is full of big and small stressors and we need to be able to manage them.
We all want the best for our kids and many parents are operating under the false impression ofthat not letting our kids experience anything that is hard or uncomfortable. It is through those uncomfortable moments that we learn to manage stress and problem solve.
#9 Not Letting Your Kid Find Their Own Voice
Over parenting and trying to fit in with the Joneses, means you are stifling your child's voice. We want our kids to say, “No” and ask, “Why” because we want them to be good problem solvers when we aren't around.
That means we are having lots of conversations with our kids that stem from their inquisitiveness and need to have deeper understanding before they take action. Letting kids into what you are thinking and the “why” behind things may take more work upfront but it cuts down on nagging and arguing because kids will make connections on their own.
#10 Neglecting Their Emotional Development
We are moving away from connected interactions and communications and are becoming disconnected from our feelings, thoughts and sensations. Without an anchor to our body, we lack emotional insight into ourselves and others.
Empathic understanding is a critical skill for future success, and the most successful leaders have a high emotional IQ. When we are able to understand and relate to others, we ourselves are happier and less susceptible to stressors.
#11 Thinking Their Behavior is on Purpose
No kid wants to “be bad” or do “the wrong thing!” When we let go of the belief that kids are trying to be annoying, not listening or whatever else YOU are irritated about by their behavior, you can actually help your child through the behavior without judgment.
It is quite freeing to see that behavior for what it is… it is about them and not you. Behavior is the language of kids and it is our job to figure out what they are trying to say. No judgment, just an opportunity to help your child connect to their own thoughts, sensations and feelings.
#12 You Shame, Blame or Yell
Yelling, shaming and blaming our kids happens to the best of us. No one is perfect! When it happens a lot, you have a problem that needs to be addressed.
Kids who struggle with self-regulation, especially kids with executive functioning issues, ADHD, autism, anxiety, depression, OCD, PANS/PANDAS, etc., already feel shameful and so bad about themselves without us pointing out every mistake they make.
We need to be sensitive to our children's emotional development but we also need to have open conversations about behaviors or struggles. That can be done without judgment or criticism, especially when we talk to our kids about the brain and normal developmental issues.
#13 Waiting for A Crisis Before Getting Help
It can be easy to miss the signs of a struggling child or teen, but many times parents see the signs but don't take action because their child isn't in crisis. It is such a misnomer that you have to be in a full on crisis to have a clinical issue such as anxiety, depression, OCD or even have suicidal thoughts.
The reality is most have somatic signs and don't show their deep internal struggles or negative thoughts and are “functional” at home and school. It is only when it is a crisis do kids refuse to go to school, won't leave their room, or are aggressive. It is never too early to get help, and finding a licensed mental health provider is where you should start.
Always remember… “Calm Brain, Happy Family™”
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Dr. Roseann is a Children’s Mental Health Expert and Therapist who has been featured in/on hundreds of media outlets including, CBS, NBC, FOX News, PIX11 NYC, The New York Times, The Washington Post,, Business Insider, USA Today, CNET, Marth Stewart, and PARENTS. FORBES called her, “A thought leader in children’s mental health.”
She is the founder and director of The Global Institute of Children’s Mental Health and Dr. Roseann Capanna-Hodge. Dr. Roseann is a Board Certified Neurofeedback (BCN) Practitioner, a Board Member of the Northeast Region Biofeedback Society (NRBS), Certified Integrative Medicine Mental Health Provider (CMHIMP) and an Amen Clinic Certified Brain Health Coach. She is also a member of The International Lyme Disease and Associated Disease Society (ILADS), The American Psychological Association (APA), Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) National Association of School Psychologists (NASP), International OCD Foundation (IOCDF) International Society for Neurofeedback and Research (ISNR) and The Association of Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback (AAPB).
© Roseann-Capanna-Hodge, LLC 2023
Disclaimer: This article is not intended to give health advice and it is recommended to consult with a physician before beginning any new wellness regime. *The effectiveness of diagnosis and treatment vary by patient and condition. Dr. Roseann Capanna-Hodge, LLC does not guarantee certain results.