Mother’s role in child men­tal health

The Manica Post - - Health / Faith - Men­tal Health Dr Mazvita Machinga

MARCH 8 is a day to cel­e­brate the In­ter­na­tional Women's Day. 2018 in­ter­na­tional women's day com­mem­o­ra­tion day has come and gone but the im­por­tance of this day will re­main through­out the year. I hope you have in your var­i­ous lo­ca­tions car­ried out ac­tiv­i­ties to ob­serve this im­por­tant day. In this ar­ti­cle, I dis­cuss the role of par­ents and espe­cially moth­ers in pro­mot­ing sound child men­tal health. First and fore­most, rais­ing chil­dren is a re­spon­si­bil­ity of both par­ents, moth­ers and fathers and the com­mu­nity at large. In the spirit of cel­e­brat­ing In­ter­na­tional Women's days, I will fo­cus on the role of women/moth­ers in pro­mot­ing sound men­tal health of chil­dren.

This does not mean that the role of fathers is not im­por­tant, in fact I will talk about fa­ther's roles in the next is­sue. The ori­gins of many men­tal health prob­lems lie in child­hood and so good enough moth­er­ing is im­por­tant. As moth­ers, un­der­stand­ing sound men­tal health on chil­dren is a key chal­lenge. Un­der­stand­ing what puts a child at risk of de­vel­op­ing men­tal-health prob­lems later in life is cru­cial if moth­ers are to take steps to stop that hap­pen­ing. All moth­ers need to be aware of var­i­ous men­tal health chal­lenges that may af­fect their chil­dren by at­tend­ing men­tal health first aid train­ings.

The proverb that good be­gin­nings are key to suc­cess means a lot in de­vel­op­ing sound child men­tal health. The first years of life are very im­por­tant for the de­vel­op­ment of ev­ery child. Par­ents can make a huge dif­fer­ence to chil­dren's early life path­ways, for bet­ter or for worse if they take child men­tal health de­vel­op­ment se­ri­ously. It is im­por­tant to know that child­hood men­tal health prob­lems can have last­ing ef­fects on chil­dren's fu­ture adult lives. Moth­ers and fathers need to pro­vide qual­ity care for their chil­dren. In fact, an in­creas­ing num­ber of stud­ies in­di­cate that the first signs of be­hav­iour and men­tal health prob­lems ap­pear as early as in­fancy, tod­dler­hood and teenage, but many moth­ers miss this. They wait un­til the sit­u­a­tion is worse then they seek for help. Also, bad moth­er­ing can trig­ger and cause chil­dren to de­velop var­i­ous men­tal health is­sues, thus, moth­ers need par­ent­ing train­ing. For ex­am­ple, chil­dren can have de­pres­sion, post-trauma, sui­cide ideation and anx­i­ety be­cause of bad par­ent­ing and ill-treat­ment. In all this, mother par­ent­ing is con­sid­ered a key fac­tor in de­vel­op­ment of early child men­tal health prob­lems since many moth­ers are pri­mary care­givers has demon­strated the im­por­tance of the mother-child re­la­tion­ship to chil­dren's emo­tional de­vel­op­ment. Moth­ers who ne­glect their chil­dren's men­tal health de­vel­op­ment are not do­ing a good ser­vice to their chil­dren.

The fol­low­ing are hints for moth­ers to as­sist pro­mote sound men­tal health

of their chil­dren

◆ Iden­tify the early signs of be­hav­iour prob­lems and risk fac­tors as par­ents e.g. when a child is ly­ing a lot, fights with oth­ers etc. then you know you need to act. Mother–child re­la­tion­ships is very im­por­tant you need to spend some time with chil­dren and con­nect with your chil­dren where ever pos­si­ble.

◆ Have early in­ter­ven­tion strat­egy for prob­lem­atic child be­hav­iour prob­lems, do not de­fend your child's wrong do­ings in­stead seek help for the child.

◆ Ac­quire par­ent­ing skills through par­ent­ing train­ing to man­age chil­dren's be­hav­iours. Aim to pre­vent emo­tional and be­havioural prob­lems in chil­dren aged 0–16 by build­ing re­la­tion­ship with your chil­dren and con­fi­dence. If need be seek par­ent-child psy­chother­apy if you have any chal­lenges. Do not wait un­til the sit­u­a­tion is worse and maybe the child is hav­ing prob­lems at school or col­lege.

◆ Help your child to ex­press is­sues that are af­fect­ing them with­out fear.

◆ Let your child have some­one they trust as a men­tor and dis­cuss your child's friends and know them.

◆ Chil­dren who grow with non-sup­port­ive moth­ers may rely more on psy­cho­log­i­cal de­fence mech­a­nisms (e.g. deny their own painful emo­tions and blamed oth­ers in­stead, stone walling not want­ing to share and bit­ter­ness). Re­mem­ber that pos­i­tive men­tal health and well­be­ing of chil­dren dur­ing first few months and years of a child's life en­able their fu­ture health and suc­cess, so moth­ers let us do our best. Do your part for the best in­ter­est of your chil­dren.

◆ Dr. Mazvita Machinga is a psy­chother­a­pist based in Mutare. For child coun­sel­ing and psy­chother­apy feel free to con­tact 0778 83 84 10 or 0771 754 519 or email pcc­s­man­i­ca­land@gmail.com/ mmazvi@ ya­hoo.com

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