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Dear Parents.......

“Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.” Robert Fulghum.

Helping your son navigate the stresses and strains of daily life is more important than ever given the significant rise in youth mental health issues. You can’t remove all the challenges your son faces however you can pass on skills to help him grow more resilient to mental health issues.

Resilience is the ability to overcome difficult experiences and be shaped positively by them. Here are three skills that I have learned from parents within our ATCommunity that I know work well:

Schedule one-on-one time with your son

Resilience comes from nurturing relationships. Work on quality of time, not quantity of time. Twenty minutes of fully focused attention is better than an hour when your mind is on other things. If you’re on your smart phone at the dinner table or at the park, you’re teaching your son it’s OK to always be distracted and that they are not important enough for your sole attention. Be vulnerable with him, share your feelings and encourage him to express his. Once this time becomes regular, your son will know they always have a safe space to open up.

Sleep is a non-negotiable

Too many of our boys are losing too many hours of sleep each week due to a lack of boundaries around screen time e.g. gaming, social platforms, YouTube etc. There is a strong correlation between mental health issues and a lack of good-quality sleep. It also has a negative effect on memory, concentration and decision-making. If you want to improve sleep (for parents also) limit screen time before bed and keep their devices out of their room when they are supposed to be sleeping.

Delay gratification

If you have never been hated by your son, you have never been a parent. Resilience means understanding you can’t always have what you want as soon as you want it. It’s an important concept to pass on in the age of Snapchat, Spotify and Netflix. Psychology teaches us that people who can accept delayed gratification lead happier, healthier lives. Without the ability to defer pleasure and reward, your son is losing an important skill for their wellbeing.

ATC is here to help!

There is no doubt that it’s never been more challenging for parents to raise boys. Parents need to be informed with clear, fact-based information on the many challenges faced by your sons. Topics such as youth anxiety, depression, self-harm, drug and alcohol use, cyberbullying and many others need clear explanation and guidance.

We strongly encourage you to engage with our ongoing resource called SchoolTV which saves parents time and the confusion of searching online across multiple sites for information. You can access the ATC SchoolTV archive HERE. We also highly recommend attending our Parent Cyber Safety Night on Thursday 27 February at 6:30pm in NJ Hall. It will cover a range of issues including online gaming, popularity of social networking, Esafety commission, cyberbullying and mental wealth. CLICK HERE to register.

So where to from here? If we want to help our sons grow in resilience to mental health issues, we need to give up our bad habits as parents!

Please begin by giving some time to reflect on the following video that offers some insights into this generation of teenagers. WARNING: You will need to invest more than a couple of minutes viewing these in order to have a potential impact!

Conor Finn
Dean of Formation