By Sola Ogundipe
Towards developing and maintaining a positive social atmosphere and emotional habits essential for the mental wellbeing of adolescents and youths, Nigerians have been called upon not to take the essence of communication for granted when it comes to parenting.
Making the call in Lagos during a chat, a Pharmacist, entrepreneur and Trustee of the What Am I To Talk Organisation (WAITT), Mrs Shade Ajayi, noted that the key ingredient to parenting is communication.
Ajayi, who along with a group of concerned parents established WAITT – an initiative that focuses to create awareness of available resources to support and navigate the journey through mental health issues with particular emphasis on the youth, charged parents to retool in line with today’s reality.
Ajayi said:”The key ingredient here is communication! There are two steps to communication; hearing and listening. “We cannot stop at hearing. The goal is to achieve both hearing and listening. We have to be able to decipher and understand what they are saying and not what we think they should be saying.
“Everything they are feeling is real to them. We need to acknowledge and validate their feelings without being judgmental,” she remarked.
Besides, Ajayi observed that student years usually fall within that period of adolescence which are critical years for the youth.
“It’s a period for developing and maintaining social and emotional habits important for mental well-being. Coupled with the changes of puberty and the physical changes that come with it, parents need to pay particular attention.”
Noting that every parent wants the best for their child, she said the belief is that everything that they do is to safeguard their children’s wellbeing and setting them on the path towards future success.
” We cannot parent our children today the way we were parented. Parents need to retool. It may be challenging but it is doable.
” As parents we need to be intentional about building relationships around our adolescents this will create a safety net for them. Trusted aunties, uncles and older cousins could bridge the communication and generation gap.
” In addition parents need to be truthful with their children. Let them know that when growing up they were not perfect too. They had challenges they had to overcome.
“Times are more difficult now with the advent of social media but issues like bullying, drugs, stress and depression also existed back in the day. The approach of being truthful will make parents more approachable and relatable. We at WAITT are with you on this journey,” Ajayi remarked.
Also speaking on the parenting challenge as regards mental health, the Director, Vivian Fowler Memorial Girls School, Yaba, Mrs Olufunke Leila Fowler-Amba, explained that the dynamics of parenting have changed dramatically over the years.
“There’s no manual to parenting. One of the things I say to parents is that the cultural aspect has to be injected into your parenting style and it doesn’t make you old fashioned, it identifies who you are and it also identifies the boundaries the child has to take.
“It is so important for parents to spend time with their children and for parents to understand that each child is different, one shoe does not fit all and that everybody emerges over time. I think also that our parents are pushing their children too hard, there’s a lot of pressure.” She said.
According to her, parents need to learn to be life-learners, to understand that the way they were brought up is completely different from the way they’re going to bring up their own children.
“As parents, we are not listening enough. It’s listening and not judging that matters and it’s really changing the way we also present as parents because we are products of our environment and of our experiences.”
Noting that the parents too are going through a lot of pressure, Fowler-Amba tasked them to be solution providers. She avowed that mental education is not a one-off, but has to be ongoing and urged parents to work towards being observant to engage the issue of suicidal tendencies in children.
“Children need a lot of mastering, patience, ears they can answer to and I especially say to parents, you need time with your children. We need to support these children, we have to understand that the way we were brought up is not the way this generation will be brought up too.”
WAITT Organisation comprises a group of parents (individuals) concerned about the emotional wellbeing of Nigerian youths and young adults and the increase in mental health issues in youths and young adults in society.
It’s focus is to pull together and help create awareness of available resources as well as mobilising school-targeted resources.
WAITT’s goal is to help bridge gaps even as it is working towards enabling light at the end of the tunnel for all. Through its networking, the organisation is looking at resources to strengthen resilience, sense of self worth, coping mechanisms, awareness of where to turn to, and helping parents and guardians to navigate the job of parenting in this present times and communicating with their children.