Tuesday, February 16, 2016

10 Steps to Happy Parenting !

Happy Child Development
Happy Parenting
When it comes to raising happy, balanced kids, behavioural science has a few proven guidelines to ensure they turn out just fine. From bringing in the fun element to leaving them alone, just at the right time – here are 10 research-backed advises from socio-psychological sciences.

Jokes do the trick …
Ease up! Let go all unwanted emotional baggage. Research papers have claimed over the years that when parents lighten up, pretend to be funny, be playful or crack a joke or two with their kids, it allows the children to think creatively, develop the art of communication and human networking, and above all manage stress better. Parents who do not mind being the clown, often have their children thanking them later in their lives!

Being positive is the way to go …
Well this certainly is a no-brainer! How often have we seen that parents who repeatedly rough up their kids or resort to physical admonishments and outright violence, while handling their children’s failures or mistakes, land up raising overtly aggressive kids and young adults. The bad news is that behavioural belligerence at an early age (sometimes as early as 5-7 years) is a sure sign of uncontrollable aggression later in life, even towards the loved ones. So, it’s like that vicious chain of a ‘violent parents – violent kid – violent teenager – violent parent’, that’s hard to break. So, reassess yourself, as a parent. Modify, if need be. You’ll thank yourself in the long run.

Cultivate a culture of self-compassion …
Self-pity and guilt has been well-recognized to play havoc among parents. Especially, with those who get to spend less time with their kids or those who are not equipped to extend certain social and material privileges to their children. It is very advisable to duck the undercurrents of remorse or self-pity. Self-kindness, empathy towards others, awareness and recognition of personal challenges, without being judgmental or apologetic is an extremely handy life-skill. Getting carried away or bottling up is certainly not the path to take. Children learn the art of self-compassion, humanity, resilience and the right ways to cope with difficulties from their parents. Are you listening?

Know when to let go …
There’s always this inflection point when kids tend to actively seek ‘freedom’, from the relentless scrutiny and control of their parents. However much we may dislike them, research findings clearly suggest, it’s probably the best for parents to know when to let go. Young adults with parents who are control freaks are known to be unusually self-conscious, apprehensive and often closed to new ideas. On the other hand children who are known to be brought up in a more relaxed environment are far likely to be self-assured, open-minded and independent. That’s doesn’t imply a parent needs to be completely hands-off. It simply means that parents do not need to act like drones, hovering perennially above their children’s heads – scanning and controlling their kids’ very existence.

Look after your marriage …
It is never enough to talk about the importance of a relatively happy and stable relationship between partners who intend to give birth to and raise emotionally stable kids. Obviously, it’s easy to preach. It is becoming increasingly challenging for couples to keep their home and relationship completely stress-free. Difficulties springing from modern life are galore and every new issue is weirder than the previous one. Yet, wherever and however partners can put in effort, they must do so. Who would want their child to suffer from sleeping disorders or see their kids grow up emotionally under-prepared to deal with the crests and troughs of life?   

Take care of your mental health …
Recognize early signs of depression and tend to your mental health. Glum, negative parents, who do not display enough concern about fixing the problem, do not do any good to their children. Pre-school children, being raised by depressed parents, have thrown up gloomy results of emotional health during researches. Brushing it under the carpet is certainly not what is being prescribed here. Seek help, if you suspect that you are depressed, for the good of yourself and your growing offspring.

Be good to your kids …
A secure, comforting attachment with the child is extremely critical in arresting chances of problematic behavioural patterns at a later stage in life. A warm bond, that allows space for occasional mistakes, is a stable base for emotionally healthy mental expansion of the child. No matter how much importance is assigned to bravado these days, kids still love to look back at their parents as an all-weather, safe and secure haven they can always come back to, if the need ever arises in the outside world. Children who have not been too close to their parents find it difficult to emulate the positive aspects of parent-child relationship during their own adult years. So, cozy up!   

Occasional arguments do little harm …
A little autonomy or an occasional debate or two at home is never too bad for your child! Interestingly, it has been found that however exasperating it might be, kids who are sometimes argumentative are somewhat better equipped to deal with peer pressure in the outside world. Hold on, I am not suggesting that kids should be encouraged to be confrontational at all times. But, it is also important that kids learn early to stand up for themselves, in spite of consistent parental support.

Nothing’s ever perfect …
There’s no need to torment your brain by setting ridiculously high standards and then struggling to cope with gaps and failures. Whoever told you that there’s a living animal called ‘the perfect parent’? New parents do not need to be serious enough to follow what the social order expects them to be like. No one’s been perfect, muss less any society. So, why bother? Be yourself; be confident in your intent and abilities. And, this is not a motorized task at hand, which can be ‘executed’ with mechanical precision, aided by a few formulae and global quality standards. Hey, this is the only unadulterated joy – parenting! Love it, enjoy it, succeed, falter, cry, laugh; above all, live the experience. Remember, not all are blessed to be a parent.

Above all, know your kids …
Parenting was never meant to be a ‘one-size-fits-all’ kind of an approach. It has been found that parents who were able to personalize their style, in keeping with the personality type of their child, have enjoyed a successful and pleasurable parenting experience. Depression, angst, nervousness, anxiety are often associated with kids who have had to deal with excesses of rigidity and compliance at home.  Even, well-meaning parents, inadvertently land up hurting their child, trying to be forceful and inflexible, at all times. It never hurts to be sensitive enough to look for cues from your child. There’s no harm in extending an extra yard of the rope of help and care, especially for kids who have difficulty in regulating their emotions.

Happy parenting!

Sunday, January 10, 2016

How do the parents know that their child needs help?

Mental health of children has become the biggest conundrum in our modern society. Shrinking families, working parents, stressed family relationships, competition and peer pressure, reduced community activities and decreased focus on rigorous outdoor sports – all adding up, to take a serious toll on the mind of children and adolescents. It is never easy for a parent to decipher the precise moment when their child needs serious professional help.

The first challenge is to recognize the signs of the imminent problems. Going through little or no formal training in parenting psychology and child behaviour, young parents are found wanting when it comes to handling children and adolescent mental health issues. The next challenge lies in the timing of decisive parental intervention. At what point should one step in, and seek professional help? Millions of households around the world are grappling with deteriorating emotional health of children and young adults. Ignorance or failure to act in time can lead to far more serious consequences – deep clinical depression, irreversible trauma or even early end to precious lives.

So, is there a magic prescription for early identification of failing mental health in youngsters? Well, there clearly are many warning signs. Some of the following common warning signs amongst children and adolescents may suggest latent emotional, behavioural or mental health problems:
  • Sudden but visible decline in academic performance
  • Loss of interest in things that were previously enjoyable
  • Increasing amount of restlessness, irritability or complete inability to concentrate
  • Inexplicably altered sleeping or eating patterns
  • Isolation – avoidance of friends and/or family members and preference for being alone all the time
  • Continuous daydreaming, procrastination, inability to complete allotted tasks
  • Behavioural issues such as being melodramatic, uncharacteristically loud or throwing tantrums
  • Selective mutism, uncharacteristic shyness, anxiety of socializing and communication 

Apart from the above signs, parents should observe keenly and see if their growing child is experience one of more of the following:

  • Persisting blues – feeling of deep sorrow and helplessness
  • Worry, nervousness, unfounded concerns, edginess or even anxiety over frivolous issues
  • Extreme bouts of radically varying emotions - inexplicable fears, anger and crying
  • Feeling of unwarranted or extreme guilt or worthlessness
  • Complete loss of concentration, attentiveness and focus, dwindling memory
  • Inability to get over the pain of personal loss, including death of someone close
  • Too much concern over physical appearance, cleanliness and personal hygiene  
  • Constant fretting over health problems
  • Constant fear over losing one’s mind
  • Obsession, rumination, uncontrollable racing thoughts  
  • Regular nightmare, flashback of unpleasant past events, fear of death and destruction
  • Suicidal or self-harming thoughts
  • Continuous worry about inflicting pain on others or on self

Finally, parents should seek professional help immediately if:

  • they happen to suspect that their ward might be resorting to alcohol or drugs
  • that their ward is increasingly alienating himself or herself
  • that he or she is trying harm or inflict pain upon self or others, including animals
  • uncontrollably gorging on food or purging / limiting food severely / being obsessive about diet and exercise
  • engaging in risqué behaviors – physically, emotionally or sexually
  • violating others’ rights / constantly breaking the law / damaging property
  • threatening or even hurting others from the same age group or younger ones

Please do not postpone your decision to seek advice and assistance from professionally qualified experts whenever the need arises. Early detection of signs of acute emotional or behavioural problems goes a long way in redressal of the issues, saving lives of children and adolescents in need of specialized psychological support. Any delay can lead to a chronic state and many a times become fatal.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Early childhood depression seriously affects brain development in children

Preschoolers who have suffered clinical depression are more likely to have altered brain development pattern as compared to those unaffected by the disorder, according to new research. Brain tissues, gray matter as we normally know them, transport signals across brain cells and are involved in functions like vision, hearing, memory, intelligence, emotion and logic. Children that have been affected by depression, apparently develops lower volume of gray matter, especially in the cortex region – the part predominantly responsible for dealing with emotions. 

Brain images of different children have shown how the brain’s anatomy changes significantly with the onset of depression during early childhood. This is quite contrary to the earlier belief that the brain has a predestined method of development in an individual, which is not much affected by the negative disposition, deprivation, poverty, familial support or parental nurturing, etc. The research findings help in understand why some individuals face difficulty in regulating their moods and emotions, when they grow up.

Gray matter, that develops as the child grows, is essentially a composition of neurons, along with axons extending from brain cells. Interestingly, the decline of gray matter starts happening around puberty, as the neurons develop the requisite efficiency in communicating with each other, to have to have the redundant parts and processes eliminated.  The development-and-decline follows an upturned U-curve. The process wherein the gray matter development is arrested, i.e. the outmoded brain cells die off, is known as ‘pruning’. Unfortunately, the U-curve for a child with depressed early years has a steeper drop, with a smaller base. The sharpness of this drop-off, along with the size of the brain, can be correlated with the severity of the depression suffered by the child. 

It goes beyond saying that these children are in the high risk zone and are under the threat of having retarded emotional intelligence and overall development of their personality. More and more physiologists, social scientists, brain researchers and educationists are trying to develop methods of identifying early signs of impeded brain development due to early childhood depression. It has been proven, that early identification and timely intervention can alter the trajectory of the hindered grey matter development cycle in individuals. 

Parents need to have the kind of inter-personal relationship and create an environment at home, that would ensure positive and wholesome emotional orientation in children and young adults. The lasting positive effects would go a long way in reducing emotional vulnerabilities in individuals when they grow up, resulting in a confident, self-assured personality that is necessary for sustainable and pleasurable long-term success and happiness.