“Child psychology almost always begins with the parents” —
Among other things, May is an important month for two celebrations: celebrating Asian American heritage and spreading mental health awareness.
In the United States, Asia-Pacific American History Month (APAHM) and Mental Health Awareness Month are celebrated in May to continue the difficult but necessary conversations about these two pressing topics.
As anyone lucky today knows, the past two years have given the world enough grief, tragedy, loss and frustration to last a lifetime.
A recent CDC report on a survey of high school students found that 55.1% described experiencing emotional abuse, 44.2% reported lingering feelings of sadness or hopelessness, and 9% attempted suicide. Additionally, young women and girls as well as LGBTQ+ youth – of all racial backgrounds – are more likely to attempt suicide.
According to Angela Vasquez, director of mental health policy at the Children’s Partnership, about half of all children “who are severely disabled with a major depressive episode have not received” any form of mental health treatment.
Depression, like most mood disorders, thrives on stealth and concealment; the more you hide and avoid the problem, the bigger it gets.
Even though the coronavirus pandemic has seemed to make things like depression, anxiety and general mood disorders worse, these issues — along with an unwillingness to confront them — have always been pressing issues, though rarely resolved. within the community.
“It’s kind of funny that this is a month for Asian Americans and the normalization of mental health, because those two ideas are like oil and water – they don’t necessarily mix,” Ravi Villeno, a Filipino American who lives in San Diego, California, told the Asian Journal in a phone interview.
Villeno – who is also Sri Lankan – shared that within his family unit, communicating emotions never felt very safe due to the rather hostile manner of his parents. He said his parents explained his falling grades and overall unproductiveness as just laziness rather than taking the soft approach of talking calmly about it and seeking professional help.
But Villeno noted that the community, the affluent coastal town of Del Mar he grew up in, didn’t make it very conducive to healthy conversations about self-care, toxic modes of communication, boundaries and therapy.
And Villeno is far from the only Filipino American who has felt suffocated by a community that made it difficult to deal with mental health issues.
“Growing up in a fairly affluent region – which had many Asian families determined to uphold the myth of the model minority, including my own who was obsessed with flaunting a perfect image – did not create the right environment for express myself,” Jerianne said. Morales, a Filipino American.
Morales, 24, was born and raised in Tustin, Calif., and she knew from a young age that her parents worked tirelessly to present the image of a stable family with children who were doing exceptionally well in school. school – a desire not uncommon among Asian families in the United States
“Even though there were a lot of Asians and Filipinos around me, and even though there’s a sense of community in there, it never really felt like a space where I could be vulnerable and real,” said Morales, who earned a Masters degree. in social work and is working towards becoming a licensed clinical social worker.
She acknowledged that her parents, and many first- and second-generation immigrants, simply don’t have the vocabulary and tools to deal with conflict and difficult situations. Rather than having great, productive problem-solving conversations, they’ve turned to accusatory language and tone that will most likely make children feel alienated.
“Instead of punishingly yelling at your child, ‘why did you get a D on that assignment? You failed that assignment! I told you to study more! you can take a more measured approach, based on solutions, like, ‘Oh, I see you got a D for this assignment. What are you having trouble with and what do you think we can do to make sure you understand your class assignments?’, Morales suggested.
She added: “If your child isn’t doing well in school, it’s probably due to mental blocks, which of course doesn’t mean there’s anything inherently wrong with them. C is completely normal.
As previously mentioned in the Asian Journal, the Asian community is vast, a population and a diaspora that encompasses almost half of the planet. It’s a herculean task trying to aggregate information, trends, and philosophies for a community that encompasses hundreds of unique cultures, languages, religions, and traditions.
But in the United States, experts say families in the Asian American diaspora share similar sensitivities when it comes to parenting. The classic conflict between the traditionally Asian principles of collectivism and the American ideal of individualism remains present in Asian American parenting styles: impeccable grades in school mean entrance into a prestigious university, which leads to a successful career in, typically, medicine, law, or other fields. areas that promise not just financial security, but wealth.
But what happens when a child does not share these same values? The conflict that arises from these differences can be severe, but listening to and treating these problem-solving methods as collaboration can help.
“I think the more parents hide and demonize their emotions and neglect to listen to their children, the more damage they cause,” Phillip Solomon, a Filipino American social worker based in the Bay Area, told the Asian Journal.
He said, “Child psychology almost always begins with the parents.”
The way parents communicate with their children and the nuances of language they use have a lot more impact than parents realize, Solomon said. He added that punitive measures to ensure that a teenager does not face any perceived “bad” obstacles such as, for example, dating or partying only encourage rebellious behavior.
Opting for more concrete approaches and solution-based language can be the first step to improving parent-child relationships, which, of course, is key to maintaining a child’s mental and emotional stability.
“As a parent, patience can tend to wear thin pretty quickly, which can lead to unnecessary communication patterns,” Solomon said. “But at the end of the day, our kids are #1 in our lives as parents, and when we say we’d do anything for our kids, that includes appropriately and gently conducting productive conversations where we process our children, not as children, but as the adults they will become. (Klarize Medenilla/AJPress)