Through the years, we have celebrated an idealized image of parenthood, with “best dad ever” inscriptions on mugs in June or “perfect mom” deals at the spa during May. While a superlative appreciation is great and makes parenthood much more bearable, it’s also created an illusion of a perfect parent we all strive for—which doesn’t exist.
Nobody is perfect. We all have our own set of flaws, traumas, and triggers. And parenthood doesn’t magically change this fact.
Parents are just like any other people who, with their best efforts, make do with the tools they’re handed. Once we realize this, we will always strive to become better.
Here are three things where parents can find room for improvement.
Mental health continues to draw stigma, mostly from baby boomers, many of which are parents themselves.
The woke culture has invited everyone to rethink societal issues, mental health being no exception. Unfortunately, baby boomers weren’t so lucky. They grew up in an environment where mental illness is swept under the rug. Learning disabilities were not acknowledged. Depression, anxiety, ADHD, and other common mental disorders were seen as a sign of weakness rather than a diagnosable disease.
As a result, many older parents today have an undiagnosed mental illness. Two-thirds of baby boomers experience mental health symptoms, but several feel they’re not serious. In a study where different generations were asked to identify mental illness symptoms, baby boomers had a significantly worse score than millennials and gen X.
This is where parenting starts with parenting ourselves. Every parent should recognize that mental illness is real and is becoming even more common due to social pressures. Only then can we care for better mental health among our children.
It’s about time we all consider the mind as another part of the body that could become ill and should therefore get the appropriate medical care it deserves. Medical professionals and social workers are reaching out with more accessible treatment, which can now come in online counselling sessions and virtual support groups.
Watching TV and Movies
Children as young as three are reported to have internet access. Data from the American Community Survey showed that about 94% of 3 to 18-year-olds could connect to the world wide web; 88% connect through a desktop computer, while 6% use smartphones.
Online, there are many platforms where kids can watch any content, completely unsupervised. Streaming sites are popping up everywhere and becoming even more accessible for all ages. And as the youth are the most knowledgeable about the internet, they unsurprisingly account for most streaming sites’ demographics.
Teenagers and young adults comprise a major chunk of Netflix viewers. By setting up their own Netflix profiles, they can watch any content on the go.
Some of these content are more nuanced and are meant for only a specific audience, despite its inviting critical acclaim. One such movie is Cuties (2020), which recently drew flak for its sexual topic centred on minor protagonists.
Cuties is meant to be a social commentary. But the problem with most social commentary is that they portray the very issue they are meant to condemn. Children cannot understand yet that depiction does not mean endorsement.
Critics who defend Cuties emphasize that it’s a movie where the message is not apparent and requires from its viewers a mature and keen mind. It attracted the opposite audience due to Netflix’s marketing, with misleading posters that made it seem like another fun movie about kids on a talent show.
Thus, you cannot leave it all to streaming sites and their viewer restriction settings. You still have to enforce substantial parental control.
In fact, studies are finding that authorizing bodies are becoming more lenient on censorship. The Harvard School of Public Health observes a phenomenon they call “ratings creep,” which has allowed more violence and sexual depictions in movies. This is perhaps a result of the public’s growing leniency towards these kinds of portrayals due to desensitization, as well as the newfound glorification given to art, however controversial they may be.
Nonetheless, as a parent, you must still be familiar with the movie rating lingo. The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) currently has five rating types, from G, which admits all ages, to NC-17, strictly for viewers of legal age.
As much as possible, watch alongside your children. It’s helpful to be there so you can explain to them some nuanced portrayals on-screen.
One in five students claims to be bullied. But this matter doesn’t often reach the parents. Many bullied children choose to suffer in silence, which is a pattern seen in victims of abuse.
Additionally, bullying comes in all kinds, some of which do not involve apparent physical injuries. While more boys report physical violence, girls report social bullying, such as being the subject of rumours or being ostracized from activities.
Having regular conversations with your child can help you gain his trust, which can help you prevent bullying and interfere in case it happens. Bullied children don’t speak out due to shame and fear of retaliation. Hearing someone trusted to guarantee that these won’t happen can get them to spill everything out.
But the story should still be gently elicited from the child. As a sensitive topic, confessing at once may be too much for a child to handle.
Becoming More Involved
Parenting is hard. But it’s not unattainable. Becoming more involved with your child is the first step to becoming a better parent across all aspects.
No child is the same, and thus, only parents can know them best. There may be no perfect parents, but they can be the best in their kids’ eyes.