First things first, I do appreciate what my mum and dad have done for me. I’ve seen the sacrifices they’ve made, the prioritising of my sister and I over their own health and desires and their attempts to support us into what they think is best for us. However, there is no general, idealistic parent, because we all need to be raised differently. Parenting may even change if the siblings have completely different personalities and needs. Strict household rules don’t always work because some believe that rules are made to be broken. On the other end of the spectrum, some children might feel lost or unsupported if they have greater freedom than their friends. What matters most is the efforts to talk, to spend time with family and to show support for the child.
(Before I get hate in the comments, I know I don’t have a kid and therefore I don’t exactly know how hard it is. But these are just things I’ve reflected on and things I would like to tell my child.
Also, if future parent me is miraculously reading this: holy crap you’re old. I hope you remember how hard growing up was. Don’t let adulthood make you forget what you wish you could speak to Mum about.)
My parents were born and raised in the Philippines, a country now known for its picturesque islands, the carnival of street food and pride. Both my mum and dad suffered from poverty at one point in their lives – not unlike 45% of the population considered to be living in poverty in 1991– and they work hard so I would not struggle as they did, but their own experiences sometimes causes great distance between myself and them. My own issues are sometimes belittled by them, when trying to communicate that I was struggling with mental health issues, my mother’s response was to tell me there are people going through worse, whilst my dad – a nurse – stayed silent and observing. After an event that revealed just how far I was spiralling down into the rabbit hole of depression, my mental health became the elephant in the room. They were angry, asking why I would have depression when they tried all they could to give me what I have. Why I didn’t talk to them when I was sad, even though when I did they’d probe me with questions making me feel like a criminal for even saying half of what I felt. To this day, I still wouldn’t talk to my parents about my depression and anxiety because to them, it is a passing grey cloud, and I could conquer it all on my own.
I don’t blame them. They grew up with survival on their mind, my mother telling me that it’s the just the way life is for her and many others. Going back to Philippines last August, I noticed how mental health and the impact of words isn’t taken seriously, with my Aunt making jokes about my not so proud moments with depression, to my grandmother making remarks on my weight. Regardless over whether I am too sensitive, I would put my best effort into making sure my child knows that they can talk to me about anything, without feeling ashamed, including mental health. So, I would have conversations with my child to see if they’re confident or unhappy with their image, able to cope with the pressures of school, feeling anxious, sad or lonely. I would explain to them the importance of mental health, how to recognise signs, ask for support and how they should never feel ashamed, though they might not suffer from it. Essentially, I would tell them it’s okay to talk about mental health.