My name is Dr Ritz Birah and I am a Consultant Counselling Psychologist. I balance my time between delivering resilience and mental health workshops to companies, seeing clients for psychological therapy, and raising two little people aged 4 and 1. I am passionate about mental health in parenting and child development.
Childhood experiences play a pivotal role in shaping a person's emotional and psychological well-being later in life. Therefore, creating a positive and supportive environment during the formative years is essential for nurturing resilience and emotional intelligence.
The theme this year for Children’s Mental Health Week is My Voice Matters. I believe parents hold a unique and powerful role in shaping the mental health landscape of their children. But how do children learn to develop an understanding that their voice matters? It starts at an early age through role modelling as they watch their caregiver interact with them.
I am going to share with you my insights and tips to empower your voice so your children can learn this from you.
The Power of Parental Presence
Your voice, your touch and your presence hold immense significance in your child's life, even before they take their first breath. During pregnancy, consider talking or singing to your baby. Once your baby arrives, continue engaging in conversations, respecting them as individuals with thoughts and feelings. This early interaction establishes a connection and lays the foundation for a secure attachment, promoting emotional well-being.
Acknowledge and validate your child's feelings. From the moment your child enters the world, recognise, and respond to their emotions. This helps them feel seen and understood, encouraging a sense of security. As you navigate the ups and downs of parenting, remember that your voice serves as a soothing presence, providing comfort and reassurance during challenging moments. You do not have to fix every single problem – simply showing that you hear and see your child is enough.
From the earliest days, allow your child the freedom to explore within safe boundaries. As they grow, offer age-appropriate choices, and encourage them to express their preferences. Your voice, filled with encouragement and support, becomes a source of empowerment, building a strong foundation for their confidence and autonomy.
Set Boundaries with Love
Establishing boundaries is a vital aspect of children's mental health. Set limits with love and respect. As your child grows, communicate expectations clearly and consistently. Your voice becomes a guide, offering a sense of predictable structure and security. This balanced approach lays the foundation for emotional regulation and self-control in your child's emotional development.
Self-Care for Parents and Caregivers
Remember, your well-being is intertwined with your child's mental health. Take time for self-care, seek support when needed, and prioritise your own emotional health. I always come back to the oxygen mask analogy. Put your own mask on before attending to anyone else. A balanced and emotionally regulated parent sows the seed for a secure and nurturing family environment.
Your voice matters profoundly in shaping your child's emotional well-being. The journey may be up and down as you navigate this incredible time but remembering that your voice is a guiding force in your child’s mental health will resonate with them in the future.
Wishing you a beautiful journey ahead,