x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

‘Parents must monitor their children, even if the spouses hate each other’: discipline and stability best for children, experts say

Many parents still feel embarrassment or shame in taking their children to see a psychologist, experts say, but there is nothing to feel ashamed about and parents have been urged to seek help if needed.

Ayesha Al Khoori

ABU DHABI // Consistent discipline and monitoring, stability and proper communication are needed to prevent children from developing anxiety issues, experts say.

Many parents still feel embarrassment or shame in taking their children to see a psychologist, they say. But there is nothing to feel ashamed about and parents were urged to seek help if needed.

“Parents must monitor their children, even if the spouses hate each other,” said Dr Dolly Habbal, a clinical psychologist at Gulf Diagnostic Centre Hospital in Abu Dhabi. “Their link is the children, so they should share the love with them.”

She said it was also important for the parents to be consistent.

“A child needs rules and consequences – not to be left alone,” she said. “Consequences show the child ‘you are not lost, you are followed’.

“We always have to think of the long-term reward. We have to motivate the child. We don’t give the child whatever he wants. We give the child whatever is contingent with his behaviour, otherwise he will lose interest and won’t do anything.”

Dr Habbal said awareness was required to talk about and deal with the many issues that could affect a child in case of a problem.

“Child issues must be presented to show the risks of leaving children,” she said. “We need to explain what could happen if the wrong people get to the child and allow them to resort to drugs or corruption.”

Families should be attentive to children’s needs and show more emotional attention and involvement, said Dr Nadia Dabbagh, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Rashid Hospital in Dubai.

“The more that we can nurture positive relationships with our children – teaching them problem-solving skills so that they can become confident, independent, social adults – the better,” she said.

“Most problems can be managed by sensible, supportive families and schools. If problems are impacting on the level of functioning at home or school, it may be worth seeking professional help.”

Dr Veena Luthra, a consultant psychiatrist at the American Centre for Psychiatry and Neurology in Abu Dhabi, said any sudden or unusual changed in a child’s behaviour should be investigated.

She said follow-up action was needed “if you see any change from the child. It could be sleep difficulty, extra eating or not eating, not wanting to go to school and school grades are dropping, not wanting to mix with friends and family – any change in the pattern of what the child is used to”.

More severe issues that suggest a child needs psychological help include wetting the bed or developing certain phobias, said Dr Habbal.

“Parents will not bring their child to therapy until they notice there is something interfering significantly with the child’s normal functioning,” she said.

Dr Luthra said children who seek help from a psychologist might feel ashamed or sad, so it was crucial for the parents to be comfortable with it.

Talking about the issues and assuring the child he or she was safe was a vital part of the treatment process, said Dr Habbal. A child must be given confidence by the family and encouraged to continue his or her normal life.

aalkhoori@thenational.ae