On Saturday 02 March, I attended the Resilient Kids Conference and would like to share a few of the pearls of wisdom presented by Dr. Michael Carr-Gregg, a high profile Psychologist, author and parenting specialist who spoke on Anxiety and Mental Health in young people.
Michael spoke firstly to the Mission Australia’s Youth Survey 2018 which reports on Young people’s wellbeing. The top three issues of personal concerns for young people were coping with stress, school or study problems and mental health (44.9%, 35.6% and 31.9%), regional areas identified their third most identified concern as body image (29.85%).
The top three issues considered to be the most important in Australia today for young people from both major cities and regional areas were mental health, alcohol and drugs and equality and discrimination.The percentage of young people identifying mental health as an issue of national importance has doubled in the past three years from 21% to 43%.
Michael pointed out that problems of depression, mild to moderate anxiety, self harm, social anxiety and suicide rates for young women and males have increased to such an extent that young people in this generation are the most vulnerable in history. It was very hard to hear how dismal the facts that were presented read. However, Michael presented the audience with an array of resources, recommendations, tips and strategies for parents, teachers and those in charge of the well being and happiness of our kids, teens and young adults.
Michael asked parents to be the robust fence at the top of the cliff. We are to be their Parent not their best friend.
Michael spoke about setting limits and boundaries on mobile phone use and social media usage, establish a family media plan and stick to those agreed time limits.
Don’t give your children everything they want and handle their meltdowns with dignity. Pick your battles, ‘No-one has died from an untidy room. Shut the door and walk away.’
Let our children experience adversity- to face and overcome sadness and setbacks and help them propel forward from these experiences. Communication is the key, when they are venting, allow them to do so and paraphrase back to them what they have said, so they know you have heard them.
Become the world expert on your child. There is no ‘one size fits all approach’, so be really aware of your child’s personality, their temperament and self-talk of the child and know what is normal and what’s not normal speak for your child.
Michael asked, “Is your child ok to be away from you?” If not, then talk to them about becoming independent and set up opportunities to practice coping in social situations without you.
Does your child understand and appreciate school and the importance of education for future economic independence? Do they value belonging to a community? These are great topics for discussion and may uncover fears and challenges your child has.
Don’t be a snowplough parent, but know when to intervene.
Does your child have friends? Show them by demonstrating and discuss how to obtain, maintain and keep friendships that are healthy. Who they hang out with matters!! Young people need to have a rich number of friendships and input from positive older role models is also beneficial.
Michael emphasised the importance of having family rituals and traditions for happiness and wellbeing.
For the wellbeing of your child, Michael stressed the seriousness of exercise for 5-18 year olds with a minimum of 60 minutes of vigorous physical activity every day. Sleep is also important with ten hours needed for primary aged children and eight to nine hours recommended for secondary aged students. In relation to diet, Michael spoke about the food and mood centre which is a collaborative research centre led by Deakin University in Australia and their research has found that fewer than five percent of adolescents eat the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables and are more likely eating nutrient poor, high sugar foods such as lollies, snacks and baked goods which affect their brains and mental health.
Two popular takeaway comments from Michael’s talk were:
1. Parents need to use more Vitamin ’N’ with their children- that is, using the word NO, don’t be worn down by repeated requests, pleas such as “Everyone else in my class is going, or has this product, or I won’t fit in with this!!!!!”
2. Does your child have a SPARK- Do they have one thing they love doing and can immerse themselves in? Something to get them up for. What can they get involved in to help form their identity?
Finally Michael emphasised that, “Young people may only be 20% of the population, but they are 100% of the future.”
Some of the resources mentioned were:
Dr. Michael Carr-Gregg books- Strictly Parenting Surviving Adolescence 2.0 Smart Snacks
Smiling Mind App Reach Out Breathe App Reach Out Worry App Family Zone App The Mood Gym foodandmoodcentre.com.au
The Brave Program- a free online program that provides parents and caregivers of young children 3-7 information and skills to help their child overcome fears and anxiety.