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The Link Between Parent and Child Mental Health


The Link Between Parent and Child Mental Health

Over the past two years the Victorian Parents Council has been fortunate to host students from Macquarie University’s PACE program. The students have undertaken research on the joys and challenges of modern parents with emerging teens. In this excerpt we look at the Link Between Parent and Child Mental Health


Children tend to learn coping strategies from directly observing and mimicking the actions of their parents (Kehoe, 2013). Studies find that when parents have emotion internalising issues, it is highly likely that their children will display similar patterns of internalising (Kehoe, 2013). Emotional competence is vital for sustained emotional well-being, as well as social wellbeing. Emotional competence refers to the ability to identify, understand and regulate one’s emotion. When parents are unable to demonstrate emotional competence, they are likely to face difficulty in providing strategies for their own children. When a child doesn’t learn how to effectively identify, understand and regulate their emotions, they are at risk for developing mental health issues in adolescence and adulthood such as depression and anxiety (Kehoe, 2013; Kercher, 2009). Also, when a parent ignores, trivialises, matches, or punishes negative emotion expression it can exasperate emotional reactivity even more and heighten family conflict (Kehoe, 2013). Studies show that parent intervention programs that target emotion acceptance and regulation strategies have been successful in reducing internalising difficulties and fostering strong parent-child relationships (O’Connell et al., 2009). In addition to this, parent intervention training for at-risk children (age 8-12), focusing on empathy significantly reduced parent-reported child internalising difficulties, aggression, anxiety and depression (Coatsworth, 2010). Therefore, it is vital for parents to be aware and competent in their own emotions to foster a strong parent-child relationship and encourage emotional wellbeing in their children.


Suggestions for Parents: (Gottman, 1997)

  1. Be aware of the child’s emotion, especially at lower intensity
  2. View the child’s emotion as an opportunity for intimacy and teaching
  3. Communicate understanding and acceptance of emotions with empathy
  4. Help the child to use words to describe how they feel
  5. If necessary, assist them with problem solving


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