The Mind Talk

The Mindtalk
Parental Strategies to Protect Youth Mental Health

“The youth is the hope of our future.” – Jose Rizal.

The younger generation carries a beacon of hope within them, guiding us towards the future.  As the elders of society, it is our responsibility to create conducive environments for their growth. During the ages of 15 and 24, these young people encounter various challenges from navigating hormonal changes, academic pressures, and the transition to the workforce. Some youth may struggle with understanding their sexuality and navigating relationships too. These challenges and more can significantly impact youth mental health.

How can we, as parents and a community, support youth to protect and preserve their mental health?

Ease up on parental pressure

Hong Kong places significant focus on academic achievements and success. Many parents expect the best from their youth and work tirelessly to provide them with multiple resources to aide their success. However, albeit well intended, parental achievement aspiration could hinder youth’s success: Hong Kong studies have found a significant link between parental academic pressure and poor youth mental health (Chyu & Chen, 2022; Wong et al., 2005).

While seeking the best for our children, as parents we could hit the reset button occasionally asking ourselves questions like “Are my expectations realistic?” or “Is my child able to cope under this pressure?”. Such questions can help us to reflect on our own expectations of our children and change systemic unhealthy patterns.

Another question to ask is “Am I imposing my dreams on my child?”. As parents, we have the privilege of raising beautiful humans – each with unique traits and characteristics. As the adage goes ‘If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will believe its whole life it is stupid’. Let us celebrate our children for who they are, recognizing their uniqueness and individuality. They are not mere fragments of our unfulfilled dreams, but rather an opportunity for us to create wholesome human beings who can, in turn, – with all their wisdom, dreams, ambitions, and goals –  contribute positively to the world

Our youth’s mental health needs to be looked after, and our collective effort should be to foster a sense of unity and collaboration. By embracing a collaborative approach, we can offer youth the fertile space they need to flourish.

Let’s talk about sexuality

In most Asian cultures, discussing sexuality is considered taboo and is typically frowned upon (Gao et al., 2012). While many schools provide comprehensive sex education, these topics could be prohibited in some households. Youth deals with this complex subject mostly by talking with their friends or seeking information from social media. However, these sources of information may not provide the sensitivity required to handle this topic. Parent workshops on understanding and communicating about sexuality in modern times can enable parents to engage in open conversations with children. This allows for a safe space for children to come to trusted adults with their questions and concerns, ensuring they receive information through informed channels. This may be particularly crucial for children grappling with confusion regarding their sexual orientation and striving to reconcile societal expectations with their internal identity. It is important to promote open discussions about sexuality and eliminate the stigma surrounding it to contribute to optimal mental health.

Youth Mental Health

Keep burnout at bay

One of many factors influencing youth mental health is future prospects. Around the age of 15 children start to think about their career and future directions, which is closely tied to self-expectations and feelings of worthiness. Young eyes have big dreams and often correlate financial success with their sense of worth. Internal pressures are high in this age group because life as they see it is just starting out for them. Today, young individuals often juggle day jobs while pursuing passion projects or side hustles, viewing them as avenues to fulfil their dreams and aspirations. But this could lead to youth burnout – a major problem in the modern world and particularly in cities like Hong Kong (Gao, 2023). Cultural factors like gaming and virtual socializing could further contribute to burnout. Youth mental health is at the receiving end of all this internal pressure and expectations.

Parenting has always been a challenging role; in current times, it is more challenging than ever, and it can sometimes feel lonely. Let us remember “it takes a village to raise a child”: parents can call on the support of their own networks, educators, the wider community, and professional help. Together, we can all work together to create a sustainable environment which helps our children flourish and keeps youth mental health at the foundation of all that we do.

References

Chyu, E. P. Y., & Chen, J. K. (2022). The Correlates of Academic Stress in Hong Kong. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health19(7), 4009. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph19074009

Gao, X. (2023). Academic stress and academic burnout in adolescents: a moderated mediating model. Frontiers in Psychology14, 1133706. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2023.1133706

Gao, E., Zuo, X., Wang, L., Lou, C., Cheng, Y., & Zabin, L. S. (2012). How does traditional Confucian culture influence adolescents’ sexual behavior in three Asian cities?. The Journal of Adolescent Health : Official Publication of the Society for Adolescent Medicine50(3 Suppl), S12–S17. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jadohealth.2011.12.002

Wong, J., Salili, F., Ho, S. Y., Mak, K. H., Lai, M. K., & Lam, T. H. (2005). The perceptions of adolescents, parents and teachers on the same adolescent health issues. School Psychology International26(3), 371-384. 384. https://doi.org/10.1177/0143034305055980

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