Academic pressure has long been considered to be one of the contributing factors to poor mental health. That’s why there’s a need for us to talk about why we shouldn't use grades as the benchmark of mental health.
In the United States, the state of mental health is not looking good. A vast majority of kids are in conflict and dealing with a lot more stress and anxiety. There’s also a sheer increase in the volume of people taking medications for mental health diagnoses.
Yes, it’s that bad. So we need to stop putting so much pressure on students and stop regarding grades as the benchmark of mental health because they’re not.
One of the biggest regrets that parents have is that they use grades as the benchmark of mental health.
We shouldn’t put the blame on the parents. We don't want parents to feel any worse than they already do. They’re all just doing the best they can to ensure that their kids are doing good. They already feel regretful about putting so much pressure on their kids.
If kids are people pleasers, they try so hard to do well in their studies. When they’re at school, they look like they’re holding themselves up without any issues. It looks like they got everything all together.
But that’s not usually the case behind closed doors, considering that mental health isn’t something we shout at the top of our lungs from the rooftops. It’s not something that we see instantly.
Mental health is not entirely observable, but often it is. However, you have to be able to know the signs to realize that there’s something wrong.
These signs that we need to look out for are easily missed, especially when somebody's doing really well in school. You’d be surprised how many kids often do great in school with their straight A’s yet have all these depressive and suicidal thoughts.
What are the signs that a student is having a crisis?
Usually, parents miss the signs indicating how much their kids are already suffering. It is understandable, considering that there are high-level students putting up a facade that everything’s okay and continue pressuring themselves into getting high grades consistently. But that’s all it is – a facade.
We have to look beyond the facade. The signs are always there, even in the smallest behavioral changes. It may be sleeping problems, less affection, or difficulty in coping with problems.
Sometimes, everything’s just too much for a student to handle, and it gets more challenging to keep up with the sports and academic pressure while protecting one’s own mental health.
There are hundreds of cases like this involving kids. Some students are have a hard time dealing with everything on their plate, and they feel like they can’t ask anyone for help, especially not their parents. Oftentimes, it’s already too late for parents to correct the mistakes.
Parents make an effort to reprioritize their kids. They initiate going to therapies or stress management sessions, yet their efforts remain unheeded because there’s already a crisis that has brewed in their kid’s minds.
What are signs that you need to be on the lookout for in your child?
Kids can do well with structure and routine, but they have too much pressure from their peers to achieve. And then, society has reinforced in their minds that if you don't go to college, you'll be nothing.
But personally, I don't believe everybody has to go to college. There are people who make a great and reasonable living, enjoying what they’re doing without having any degrees, especially in the digital world.
So what are the signs? Have you noticed that your kid has been spending an inordinate amount of time doing their academic work to the point where they are completely shortchanging their sleep? If you have, then that’s something you shouldn’t encourage.
No one cannot live without sleep. In fact, kids and teenagers need at least seven and quarter hours of sleep. The younger you go, the higher number of sleeping hours you need. So for school-aged kids, it can be up to 10 hours of sleep.
If sleep quality is poor, there’s no doubt that your mental health will be affected. We already know this as adults. So, why are kids any different?
What are some of the signs that your child is having a mental health issue?
Stress can show up through gastrointestinal symptoms. So, if your kid is exhibiting these symptoms, you have to monitor what’s going on. You can’t just ask them directly if they’re depressed. They may not even recognize that they’re facing a mental health issue.
Some signs that your child is having a mental health issue may be inferred from your child’s pains, like headaches, body pains, or fatigue. There will be behavioral changes because of the pain they’re experiencing. Sometimes, when kids are suffering from pain, they get extra grumpy, and it seems beyond the developmental range.
Most mental health issues are not genetic. They're often acquired due to stress and inflammation. That's just good marketing from pharma, letting you think that everything is biochemical when in fact, it's not. We need to focus on a healthy lifestyle and learning new behaviors.
The importance of mental health in the classroom
Indeed, academics are important, but there’s more to life than just academics. I'm not saying we shouldn't care about academics, but the point here is that we must prioritize our children’s mental health.
Getting into a nice university won’t matter if they flunk out because they're anxious, depressed, or have an obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). In fact, 40% of college freshmen either leave school or transfer. Also, a lot of people flunk out because of mental health issues.
Using grades as a benchmark of mental health just doesn't work anymore because kids can be active yet have these suicidal and depressing thoughts. There are people that have everything going for them. But just because that’s the case, it doesn't mean they have it going on the inside.
How to get your kids to talk about mental health
Parents must really pay attention to those somatic signs. Look for changes in your kid’s behavior and talk to your kids about how their body feels. Ask them about how you're managing stress, and display positive ways of managing stress. Try to create opportunities to connect with them.
Spend time with your kids and build good relationships with them. A great tip to get a kid talking is to get their body moving. Moving puts you into that parasympathetic state, and you get endorphins released. When you get their body moving, their lips also move.
Play basketball, take walks, go trekking, or whatever it is that allows you to join your kids. It’s important that you get out there moving with your kid and get them to start talking.
More often than not, when you think that your kid has a mental health problem, they probably do. Keep in mind that it is never a bad thing to seek help from a licensed mental health professional or to seek your own parenting support.
Parents also need their own support group to guide them in helping their kids deal with anxiety or whatever is going on. Parenting groups come in handy. With such deeper clinical issues on the rise, you should get ahead of this and look at it as an opportunity to give your kids those keys to lifelong mental health.
These are why we can't use grades as a benchmark of mental health. It doesn't matter what their grades are. It doesn't matter what your neighborhood is. It doesn't matter what your kid's school is.
What really matters is how your kids feel about themselves and how they are managing stress. You are the key to helping them develop and cultivate those lifelong skills. Be there for your children and support them. Make mental health a priority.
No matter where you are in your journey, we have resources to help you!
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