How Parental Pressure Can Affect Children's Mental Health
Published on 4th July, 2023
As parents, it is normal for you to want the best for your child. In wanting them to succeed, you may set certain goals and expectations for your child to meet. However, your idea of success may not align with your child's goals or dreams. Moreover, your expectations may also be greater than your child's current abilities.
Of course, you may set high expectations for your child because you want to maximise their potential. After all, growth is only possible when your child is able to face and conquer certain challenges. However, there is a difference between having realistic expectations that moderately challenge your child and having excessively high expectations that push them beyond their limits. Understanding this difference is essential in ensuring the mental well-being of your children. Sometimes, children also internalise the expectations of society, such as the need to excel at their work to be respected and valued.
Excessive parental pressure can have detrimental effects on a child's mental health. When children fail to meet the expectations set by their parents, they tend to be hard on themselves, constantly dwelling on their shortcomings instead of recognising their accomplishments.
Read on as we delve into the meaning of parental pressure, how it can affect your child’s mental health, and how parents can improve their methods of encouragement.
What is parental pressure?
Parental pressure essentially refers to the emotional strain that parents place on their children—often tied to various aspects such as academic performance, participation in sports or other extracurricular activities, cultural or social standards, appearance, friendships, and romantic relationships. A study conducted in 2020 highlighted the significant impact of pressure from family members on teenagers' mental health, suggesting that it can be the most influential source of stress for them (Hosseinkhani et al., 2020). While some level of parental involvement and guidance is essential, excessive pressure can lead to negative consequences.
How does parental pressure affect a child’s mental health?
It is natural for your child to seek your approval, especially if they are a young student. When parents openly express disappointment or treat their children differently based on their performance, it can cause the children to link their entire sense of self-worth to their achievements. This means that children start to believe that their value as individuals is solely determined by how well they do in various aspects of their lives.
If you notice your child exhibiting any of the following signs:
● Withdrawal from activities they used to enjoy
● Frequent tearfulness or mood swings
● Avoidance of social interactions
● Decreased interest in school or declining grades
● Increased irritability or outbursts of anger
● Struggling to maintain friendships or difficulty forming new relationships,
It may be an indication that they are experiencing the negative effects of excessive parental pressure. It is crucial to create an open and supportive environment where they feel comfortable expressing their concerns and emotions. Seeking professional help, such as a counsellor or a child's therapist in Singapore, can also be beneficial in addressing and managing the impact of parental pressure on your child's well-being.
How to encourage children without pressuring them
Here are a few suggestions to keep in mind when supporting your child without resorting to excessive parental pressure:
1. Praise your children
Pointing out your child's mistakes or behaviours that bother you through criticism can make them defensive, which only continues the cycle that initially led to the criticism.
Instead, focus on praising your child for their strengths. According to a study conducted in 2017, it is recommended to gradually increase the amount of praise you give, offering four times more praise than criticism (Arzamarski, 2017). Importantly, praise should not only be focused on the child's achievements, as this may lead them to believe that they are only deserving of praise when they do well. Try praising their efforts as well.
Parenting with praise has the potential to enhance your child's self-assurance and enhance their academic performance, reinforcing their belief in their abilities to succeed in their tasks.
2. Validate their feelings
As a parent, you might assume that your child shares the same feelings and perspectives as you. However, when you acknowledge and respect your child's emotions, even if they differ from your own, you recognise that they have their own unique identity.
By validating your child's feelings and maintaining open and honest communication about emotions, you can help them develop the ability to trust their instincts and make confident decisions in life.
3. Demonstrate healthy coping techniques
Children tend to mirror their parents' behaviour. If you want your child to learn how to deal with failure in a positive way, it is important to model that behaviour yourself. When you fail at something, don't beat yourself up for it. Instead, focus on what you can learn from the experience and how you can do better next time. Talk to your child about your failures and how you dealt with them. This will help them to see that failure is a normal part of life and that it is possible to learn and grow from it.
Take care of yourself and show your child the importance of having a healthy relationship with themselves so they will know how to deal with their emotions when dealing with stressful situations such as exams. Encourage them to value and respect themselves as well.
4. Maintain open conversations
Parents who openly express their emotions and maintain frequent communication with their children can build a strong foundation of trust. This creates a positive environment for your child's long-term well-being. If your child is already dealing with mental health challenges, having open and honest conversations may allow you to better understand their experiences and provide the necessary support. While there is existing stigma surrounding mental health, discussing it openly at home can help to normalise your child's experiences and assure them that they are not alone, fostering a sense of support.
If you notice that your child is experiencing the negative effects of excessive parental pressure, it is crucial to take action. It is essential to create a supportive environment where they feel comfortable expressing their concerns and emotions.
As parents, it is important to strike a balance between encouraging your children and pressuring them. Seeking professional help, such as counselling or therapy from services providing adult counselling in Singapore, can be beneficial in addressing and managing the impact of parental pressure on your child's mental well-being.
Hosseinkhani, Z., Hassanabadi, H. R., Parsaeian, M., Karimi, M., & Nedjat, S. (2020). Academic Stress and Adolescents Mental Health: A Multilevel Structural Equation Modeling (MSEM) Study in Northwest of Iran. Journal of research in health sciences, 20(4), e00496. https://doi.org/10.34172/jrhs.2020.30
Arzamarski, C. (2017). Catching kids being good: A practical guide to Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports. The Brown University Child and Adolescent Behavior Letter, 33(11), 1–5. https://doi.org/10.1002/cbl.30250