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Is Your Child Stressed? 6 Ways You Can Help Them Navigate Mental Health

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ReimagineTogether logoEditor’s Note: This article is a part of #ReimagineTogether, a campaign by Youth Ki Awaaz in collaboration with UNICEF India, YuWaah and Generation Unlimited, to spark conversations to create a new norm and better world order in the post-pandemic future. How have you and those around you coped with the pandemic? Join the conversation by telling us your COVID story and together, let's reimagine a safer, better and more equal future for all!

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“I’m just tired” is something we tend to say when our mom asks us “what’s wrong?” But what if I told you that there could lay thousands of emotions behind that “tired”? While it may just be an excuse to not tell your mom about how you’re feeling, sometimes tiredness indicates something else. It could mean you’re stressed, but you just don’t know that stress causes tiredness. 

Even when kids are aware that they’re stressed or anxious, they may decide to hide it, which prevents them from getting help. National surveys in the UK, Australia, and the USA have estimated that only 25–56% of children and adolescents with mental health disorders access specialist mental health services. This isn’t surprising giving that psychotherapy is still stigmatized, and often stigmatized by one’s parent. Thus, you need to be able to get help in alleviating your stress and anxiety with your parent and be open to talking to them about taking you to a therapist. 

The First Step Is To Identify Symptoms Of Stress

For a parent who knows their child very well, “unusual” behaviour is quite discernible. Speaking to a parent, she told me that it was quite easy for her to spot when her son was anxious as he’d start to corner himself. However, it’s not just “unusual behaviour” that is an indicator, but also other symptoms that may often remain unrecognized by parents. 

Some common identifiable symptoms of anxiety are sweating, restlessness, fidgety behaviour, trembling or shaking and rapid breathing or shortness of breath. It isn’t uncommon for parents to overlook these symptoms or attribute them to other things. Hence, parents need to research and read about the different symptoms of anxiety and stress so they can better identify if it’s happening. Perhaps both you and your parent could do this activity together. 

Understand That Communication Is Important And Goes Both Ways!

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Once your parent is aware that you’re anxious, there’s a vast multitude of solutions they can use to calm you or help you de-stress. While active communication is necessary and quite often helps, speaking up even about a slight matter may be nerve-wracking for an anxious child, and hence may even increase anxiety instead of reducing it. Speaking to another parent, she told me that telling her children to talk about their worries and assuring them that “it’s okay to feel this way” is what helped the most.

Undoubtedly, a strained parent-child relationship can lead to increased anxiety levels for both the parent and the child. So, as parents, one must encourage constructive conversations regularly and mustn’t dismiss the frightfulness of a child as a ‘phase’. A good way to improve communication with one’s child is to show them that their thoughts and feelings are valued and be a listening ear. 

Practice Mindfulness As A Family Routine 

A 2013 study from the Baptist Medical Center found that meditation reduced anxiety ratings amongst 15 healthy volunteers with normal levels of everyday anxiety by as much as 39%. Parents could set 15-minute meditation sessions with their children, or encourage them to practice mindfulness daily. Considering that mindfulness is one of the best ways to cope up with stress, implementing it into one’s child’s daily routine – from a young age – could be very helpful.

Parents, Encourage Your Children To Speak, Do Not Control 

Speaking to a few parents also made me realize that pressurizing or controlling one’s child never works, and probably only worsens the child’s anxiety. According to a 2019 article on “The Dangers of Putting too Much Pressure on Kids” by Amy Morin, “Kids who feel like they’re under constant pressure may experience constant anxiety. High amounts of stress can also place children at a greater risk of developing depression or other mental health issues”. Parents need to understand that their child is an individual of their own, and will undoubtedly act up if they feel like they are being controlled. So, for example, instead of saying “you need to get 100/100 this time”, a few sentences of encouragement and support like “you did your best” or “you got this” may work better. 

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Remember That Nobody Can Snap Out Of Anxiety

As someone suffering from anxiety, I can tell you that hearing phrases like ‘just snap out of it’ and ‘it’s not that big of a deal as you’re making of it’ do nothing but make my anxiety worse. Considering that, parents need to research and learn about phrases that an anxious person would and wouldn’t like to hear. One may think phrases like “everyone has anxiety” and “get over it” help an anxious person. But they don’t. It is time parents start being mentors, counsellors and friends to their children rather than just an authority figure or a guardian. Kids should also explain to parents what language motivates and demotivates them.

Scheduling Your Tasks Can Help 

When children learn to set priorities and create task lists early on, they’re not only learning an important skill but also helping to alleviate their stress. Scheduling helps to break the uncertainty of not having set tasks (which often causes anxiety) and organize one’s thoughts. While there are a plethora of scheduling techniques available online ranging from monthly schedules to daily to-do lists, finding what’s best for you will involve some trial and error. You could sit with your parents and make daily to-do lists or create an online calendar with set tasks to learn the art of scheduling.

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We often tend to get the best out of something when someone helps us, and hence, it would be a good option for parents to tune in and help their children organize their thoughts. In fact, a study by Dr Michael Scullin, from Baylor University in Texas also showed that those who wrote detailed to-do lists got to sleep 15 minutes quicker than everyone else who didn’t. Having experimented with various kinds of schedules, I can say that they effectively reduce my anxiety, and it works best when my mom helps.

In such uncertain times, it is important for parents to step up and lend a helping hand, starting off by asking us if we need help. After all, as Peter Ustinov said, “parents are the bones on which children cut their teeth”

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Do your parents add to your stress?

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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