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Nurturing Your Child’s Mental Health: A Comprehensive Guide for Parents in Singapore

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In recognition of World Mental Health Day on October 10th, we take a closer look at an often-overlooked topic: the mental well-being of children. Singapore is often heralded as a success story—boasting top-notch education, healthcare, and a bustling economy. However, the high-pressure environment to succeed can often put a strain on children’s mental health. As parents, understanding the need to balance both academic excellence and psychological well-being can make a world of difference in your child’s life.

Establishing Open Communication: Beyond the Basics

While you may already know that talking to your child is important, the way you communicate with them can significantly impact their mental health as well.

To truly listen, engage in conversation without distractions, maintain eye contact and summarise what your child is saying back to your child to check your understanding of his concern. Use open-ended questions such as, “How did that make you feel?” or “What was the best part of your day?” to encourage a deeper dialogue. Setting aside a dedicated ‘family talk time’ each week can establish a regular channel of communication.

Building a Safe Environment: Emotional Safety is Key

In addition to physical safety, emotional safety is vital for your child’s well-being. This involves more than simply saying “You can talk to me.” It’s about demonstrating that your child’s emotions won’t be minimized, mocked, or ignored. Discuss emotional literacy by naming different feelings and talking about acceptable ways to express them, such as journaling or speaking openly rather than shouting or sulking.

Exercise and Outdoor Activities: Make it a Family Affair

In Singapore, the plethora of parks, beaches, and public sports facilities provide excellent venues to engage in physical activities. Make it a weekend family ritual to visit different parks, try various sports, or even engage in simple games like frisbee. Physical activity is not just for the child’s benefit; it’s an excellent opportunity for family bonding.

Nutritional Support: The Singaporean Way

While it’s easy to indulge in Singapore’s myriad culinary options, from hawker stalls to fine dining, a balanced diet is a must. Parents can involve their children in grocery shopping and cooking, teaching them the importance of nutritional balance. This also serves as a chance to introduce the concept of ‘mood food,’ explaining how certain foods like fatty fish rich in Omega-3 fatty acids or fermented foods like yogurt can help improve mental health.

Screen Time: Setting Healthy Boundaries

With Singapore being one of the most digitally connected countries, managing screen time can be a real challenge. Apps that monitor screen time and specify what type of content can be viewed are beneficial. Also, make an effort to replace some of the digital entertainment time with other activities—perhaps a family board game night or a visit to a museum to stimulate their minds in different ways.

Mindfulness and Relaxation: Tools for Life

Singapore has a variety of mindfulness programmes tailored for children. This practice isn’t just an adult stress-reliever; it’s a life skill that can help children focus better and understand their emotions. Schools are slowly integrating mindfulness practices into their programmes, but there’s no reason why it can’t start at home. Children as young as three can begin learning basic breathing exercises and simple meditation techniques.

Supportive Parenting: The Balance Between Guidance and Freedom

While Singaporean society often stresses academic achievement and organized activities, remember that downtime is not wasted time. Unstructured play and free time are essential for mental well-being, fostering creativity and problem-solving skills. The point is to not overschedule your child to the extent that they become overwhelmed. Let them explore and discover passions on their own while providing a supportive net to fall back on.

When to Seek Professional Help: Recognizing the Signs

Changes in sleep patterns, persistent mood swings, withdrawal from social activities, or declining academic performance can be red flags. In Singapore, there’s a growing network of mental health professionals. If you have any concerns, it’s always better to consult a professional sooner rather than later. Early intervention often results in better outcomes.

School and Social Life: A Two-Way Street

Parents often focus on academic achievements but overlook the importance of social interactions. Friendships and peer relationships contribute significantly to emotional well-being. School-based support services, counselors, and open discussions about healthy relationships should be part of your proactive approach.

Use this day as a steppingstone to open a dialogue about mental health with your child. Involve them in activities that focus on well-being and emotional balance. Singapore often hosts events, seminars, and activities aimed at promoting mental health. Participate as a family and make mental health a priority. The demands and challenges of life in Singapore can pose unique stressors for your child. But by implementing these strategies, you can offer them the tools they need to navigate life’s ups and downs mentally prepared and emotionally resilient. As we observe World Mental Health Day, let’s pledge to make mental health care a part of our family’s routine.

To find out more about our free parent support services, register your interest at https://go.fycs.org/PSS, or email us at [email protected] or call 88694006.

Written by Phoebe Wong, Counsellor, Fei Yue Community Services

Reflection Questions

  1. Am I aware of my children’s emotions and mental state?

  2. What questions can I ask to hold deeper conversations with my children?