How Parents Affect Their Child’s Mental Health


(Image via Wikimedia)

Brianna Garcia-Andrade, Writer

Has there ever been a time when you’ve held back from telling your parents about the struggles you go through in your everyday life? The truth is, everyone refrains from telling their parents about their struggles, especially when it’s about something as personal and complicated as mental health. Their parents’ reaction is what ultimately scares people. Sometimes parents don’t understand, ignore their child’s pain, or undermine what they’ve been told, only making the child think that their feelings are invalid. A bad reaction like that will only push the child further away and cause even more mental damage. 

When people think about trying to communicate with their parents about what they are struggling with, it often leads to worry. They worry that their parents won’t understand the severity of what they are dealing with, especially with something like mental health, that doesn’t always have a direct source or an easily attainable solution. It’s something so fragile and confusing that even a person who struggles with it doesn’t quite understand what they’re going through, what they’re feeling, or what to do about it, which is why it’s especially hard when trying to explain it to another person, or in this case, a parent. Imagine not feeling like yourself but not knowing exactly why or how to fix it, so you reach out to a parent, someone you trust, and they shoot you down and tell you that what you’re feeling isn’t valid. They tell you that it will pass, or that whatever you’re feeling can’t possibly be true. It makes someone feel defeated, and then the child is left to fend for themselves. Ultimately, they suffer alone and in silence because they’re now convinced that what they feel isn’t valid. 

Mental health isn’t just something that affects someone psychologically, sometimes it gets so bad that it starts to show physically as well. When it starts to affect someone physically is usually when the parents notice a change in their child’s behavior. This is sad because it means that their child isn’t fully mentally there, and they pay no mind to it, but when it starts to show through their physical appearance, their parents start to wonder. Mental health has a way of messing with your motivation to do anything other than making your mind spin 24/7 with dark thoughts. It takes away a person’s motivation to do school work, play sports, socialize with their peers, and sometimes even getting out of bed in the morning is a struggle. But in the eyes of parents, this is all due to being “lazy,” or as has been brought up so many times by so many parents, it’s because “we spend too much time on our phones.” Then they decide to confront their kids; why did your grades drop all of a sudden? I thought you loved playing that sport? Why do you never spend time with us anymore? Do you plan on hiding away in your room forever? These are all questions that their child has no doubt asked themselves but just can’t seem to find the right answers to. So again, they try to explain what they are going through, but it doesn’t ever quite fully cover what they’re feeling on the inside. Parents don’t always understand, no matter how many times you try to explain it, or maybe they just think it would be easier for them to pretend that everything is fine and that the problem will solve itself with time. 

Most children find it difficult to communicate with parents about anything, so when the parent turns away from their child in a time of need, the child is going to feel rejected. It’ll only put a strain on the relationship, and in the future when a parent reaches out and wants to feel connected with their child, there will already be a guard up. Parents don’t take the time out of their day to explain mental health to their kids. Because of this, when the child does end up dealing with their mental health, they end up confused. They don’t understand it, and because it’s not talked about at home, they try to ignore it but only end up hurting themselves even more. Parents must be aware of what is going on with their child’s mental health and make an effort to help them get better. It’s okay that parents might not fully understand what you’re going through or how to help, but it’s not okay to invalidate their child’s feelings. Parents must stick with them through it all so that they know they aren’t fighting that battle alone.

In conclusion, parents have a bigger impact on a child’s mental health than they are aware of. The way a parent reacts to the struggle of their child is what can make or break a child. The parents can either choose to neglect the child and hope that the issue solves itself or they can listen and try to understand, making sure they know that they are not alone. In the end, the parents are supposed to be a support system, someone to rely on. They’re not supposed to become one of the many voices inside your head with all the other dark thoughts that take over your mind, body, and soul.