A version of this Forum Letter was submitted and republished in the Straits Times Forum on 22 April, 2019.
The school-related mental health issues that teenagers face in our society today are a cause for concern (More teens in Singapore seeking help at IMH for school stress; ST, Apr 11 2019).
While it is good to know that there available avenues to seek help, and that schools are proactively addressing this issue, there is a pressing and urgent need to equip those who are closest to home for the child – the parents.
In the article, Madam Choy Wai Yin, director of MOE's guidance branch at the student development curriculum division, shares that they have increased efforts to raise awareness amongst parents on mental wellness for their children. This is a step in the right direction.
Two separate local studies have shown that when parents exert a positive and affirming influence in their children's lives, these young people experience lower levels of stress.
One study of Singaporean children, found that those seven-year-old children whose parents showed more positive support towards them, had lower tendencies to react to stress with negative affect, such as fear and anger, and were able to regulate their emotions better (Hong, Lee, Chng, et al., 2017).
Another study of local secondary school children found that students who perceive their parents as being more “responsive, supportive, and involved in their learning” experienced lower anxiety in learning math, whereas students who perceived their parents as using more coercive discipline experienced higher anxiety (Luo, Aye, Hogan et.al., 2013).
The positive impact that parents can have over their children to mitigate stress and anxiety should not be underestimated.
However, it takes more than good intentions and a desire to help our children. At times, even well-meaning parents may not realise the levels of stress and anxiety that our children face, particularly in the adolescent years when they are navigating social relationships, heavier academic workload and a natural desire for individuation - what we see, is likely just the tip of the iceberg.
At Focus on the Family Singapore, we advocate for parents to be proactive in equipping themselves with the skills needed to be parent-coaches to their children. This includes engaging them creatively such that they share their genuine thoughts and emotions, and making time to talk through the different situations and challenges they face and helping them to problem-solve on their own.
The tween and teen years can be a challenging time for our children, but with the right support from their parents, they can emerge more resilient than ever.
Judith Alagirisamy (Ms)
Family Life Specialist
Focus on the Family Singapore
 Hong, R. Y., Lee, S. S. M., Chng, R. Y., Zhou, Y., Tsai, F. F., & Tan, S. H. (2017). Developmental trajectories of maladaptive perfectionism in middle childhood. Journal of Personality, 85(3), 409-422. https://doi.org/10.1111/jopy.12249
 Luo, W., Aye, K. M., Hogan, D., Kaur, B., Chan, M. C. Y. (2013). Parenting behaviours and learning of Singapore students: The mediational role of achievement goals. Motivation and Emotion, 37(2), 274-285. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11031-012-9303-8