Following our recent assessment of mental health among women in Hong Kong, we explore what HK mothers are concerned about for their children. https://reddoor.hk/2019/03/08/supporting-the-mental-health-of-women-in-hong-kong/
Ninety-seven mums answered questions regarding their level of concern, with any of their children, regarding different psychological issues including eating disorders, depression, learning issues, poor self-esteem, experience of bad stress, friendship challenges, and even feeling suicidal.
The highest rated psychological experiences that mums worry about include:
We’ll explore the top 5 of these conditions in this piece and provide some advice for anxious mums out there. We will write separate articles on each of these 10 issues in due course so watch out for these.
More than half of the mums sought professional assistance (from the school, from counselling, a doctor, or psychiatrist) if they had concerns. If you have persistent worries about your child, do consider seeking assistance.
Anxiety was rated as the strongest experienced among our mums, with a rating of 72/100. Over 3 quarters of responding mums mentioned that they were concerned about their child’s anxiety occasionally or frequently. Forty-three percent of our mums said that they frequently were concerned about their child’s experience of anxiety.
Anxiety is a normal experience in life, which can become problematic if kids become stuck feeling this way or experience excessive episodes of anxiety. Simplistically, most common psychological anxiety disorders among children include generalised anxiety disorder (when worry gets out of control), social anxiety disorder (afraid/embarrassed of being judged by others to a disruptive extent), and panic disorder (when fear overwhelms through panic attacks).
If you feel your child’s anxiety is becoming problematic you might like to seek help from their school or a counsellor. Other practices to remember include:
The goal is to manage anxiety, not eliminate it. Avoiding the thing that elicits anxiety reinforces the anxiety.
Set realistic and positive expectations for your child. If your child is avoiding school because of anxiety, work towards full attendance again from where you are. If they miss one day a school, first aim for one day a fortnight, then one a month, then none at all.
Respect your child’s feelings. Don’t tell them to just get over it. At the same time, help them review the situation. Help them explore ways to reframe situations and check their faulty filters. https://reddoor.hk/2019/03/28/change-the-view-challenging-your-thinking-filters/
Get the basics right – makes sure that their health is not compromised as this will exacerbate their experience of anxiety – make sure their diet, consumption of water, health amount of exercise and sleep are optimal. https://reddoor.hk/2019/03/15/get-your-teen-to-sleep/
Help your child develop a safety card or a coping kit of activities that help them calm down. For some ideas see our quick calm recommendations https://reddoor.hk/2019/03/13/achieving-quick-calm/
Model a healthy response to anxiety for your child to learn from. Please review your own anxiety responses, and work to show your child that you can overcome and manage anxiety,
Overuse of technology*
Mums were asked if they were concerned about their child’s use of technology, undertaking surfing or gaming activities for 2 or more hours a day. This separates the use of the internet for schoolwork from more casual use. Of the mums who responded to our survey, 69% of mums are concerned about their child’s overuse of tech, and 31% were frequently concerned about this.
The impact of so much unfettered access to technology over the long term has not yet been properly determined. It has been suggested that overuse of technology can rewire the brain and affect our ability to communicate. Too much use of technology can impact the sleep of your child, especially if they sleep (or don’t sleep) with a device in their room.
The silent addiction of social media, including virtual lives through Instagram can lead to confusion of sense of self, self-acceptance, perfectionism, loss of creativity, and potentially compromised safety. You might consider limiting social media time if your teen spends more than 1 hour a day on this activity, or seems to experience problems around their self-esteem.
Other problems that warrant attention or intervention include your child falling behind with schoolwork as a consequence of their time on devices; child seems to be escaping reality using the internet, your child frequently, avoiding face to face social activities in favour of internet time; aggression when devices are removed from the child; preoccupation with their social profile; child being ‘bored’ by any activity which is not online; or starting internet conversations with people they do not know.
Contrary to what your child might tell you, tech free time is not a form of abuse of deprivation. We need to teach our children to use technology responsibly. Family internet agreements and courses in cybersecurity may also be helpful to set boundaries, but these need a firm hand by the parent as children and teens are notoriously lax at maintaining time away from tech.
A word to the wise, children learn from their parents. We can’t ask children to do as we say, not what we do. Check your own mindless use of technology. Demonstrate that you are able to put away your phone and have a face to face conversation.
* This is a significant topic and we promise a dedicated article on this topic in the near future.
Friendship challenges were a concern for 69% of the mother’s surveyed. Over 29% of our mums are frequently concerned about their child’s experience of friendship challenges.
Common friendship challenges include:
Being excluded – being left out or suddenly excluded from a group. This may happen because of the dynamic of the group, or the skills (or lack of) within the child.
Being bullied – a major worry in schools in Hong Kong. We need to help children learn that good friends don’t bully.
Friends gone wile – as friends develop, and especially during the teen years, your child may become at odds with their friend’s behaviour. Drinking, drugs, self-harm can break relationships and create peer pressure. Helping children realise they don’t have to do the same as their friends can be a challenge.
Loneliness and trouble making friends – some children do not seem to know how to make more friends, and will require support to help them learn these skills.
Some advice: Conflicts with close friends are inevitable. Experimentation with social power will be a natural exploration of your child, and their friends. This means that friendships, particularly between 10-16 years of age, can be quite rocky. Resiliency and social skills are extremely important skills to help develop in your child.
Remember your kids and even your teens need their parents. Know their friends, check up on their perception of friendships, encourage them to have a broad friendship base, teach them the rules of good friendships and model good friendship behaviours yourself.
Self-esteem starts to be demonstrated by children between the age of 5-7 years of age. Based on their perceived competency at school tasks, extra curricular activities, friendships and their place within the family, young children tend to hold rather inflated views of themselves. Over the following years, a child’s view of their value and competency help them navigate learning and life challenges. Good self -esteem helps children take on risks. Conversely poor self-esteem can make children see themselves, and their competency, and their opportunity to conquer situations more negatively. no one is perfect, and we should be careful to imply to children that perfection is possible.
Building a healthy self-esteem is often the product of helping your child see themselves realistically and positively. For that purpose praise for your child should be specific, and around the effort behind success more than the result. Let your child fail occasionally, getting over disappointment is helpful to help your child realise they can be knocked down, and get back up again.
In Hong Kong children can be become entitled because they often do not need to contribute to the household. Having your child contribute to the house, via chores such as cooking dinner, looking after their rooms, learning to care for their own clothes, helps them develop a stronger sense of their self-worth.
Foster a growth mindset among your children. Let them learn to use the word ‘YET’. Rather than “I’m not good at math”, learn them to use the phrase “I am not good at math YET”. Challenge any limit your child puts on themselves.
Additionally, let your child be a CHILD as long a possible. We can be mesmerised by our child’s desire for independence. Whilst your child can gain independence, remember and remind them, that they are still kids, and that there is no rush for them to grow up. They will be grown ups for a very long time.
Sad mood is different from depression. Our mothers could indicate depression or sad mood as a concern. Among our HK Mums, 66% sad that they were concerned about their child’s experience of sad mood, and 43% said they are frequently concerned about their child’s sad mood. Sad mood is considered a precursor to depression and as such you might want to consider a checklist of depression (below) to see if your child may be depressed rather than just sad.
Children, especially teens can experience sad moods due to disappointments over grades, friendships, and performance. They may struggle with feelings created in response to physical changes around puberty. They may feel sad due to issues around acceptance especially if they are working to build a stronger concept of who they are (their identity). Some kids are oversensitive. If your child is oversensitive, and frequently sad you may like to keep a closer eye on them for signs of depression.
Signs of depression – if your child experiences 3 or more of the following for more than a few months you may like to consider private or school counselling.
- Your child expresses feelings of sadness/hopelessness
- Your child is frequently irritable, hostile or expressing anger
- Your child is frequently teary
- Your child is withdrawing from friends and family
- You notice changes in your child’s eating or sleeping behaviours
- Your child is often restless or agitated
- Your child expresses feeling of worthlessness or guilt
- You’ve seen a drop in your child’s performance at school
- Your child seems to lack motivation or enthusiasm
- Your child seems to suffer from lack of energy or fatigue
- Your child has difficulty concentration
- Your child often has unexplained aches and pains
- Your child expresses thoughts of death or suicide
Let your child express their feelings freely. Don’t tell them that they shouldn’t feel that way. Encourage therapy, actively listen, help them build coping strategies, and build strong support systems – within the family and their friends.
Mums worry about their kids. We are grateful to the wonderful mum who shared their concerns with us, and use the advice that we can provide to them.
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