12 Nov 2020

What's top of mind for Kiwi parents?

From Nine To Noon, 11:27 am on 12 November 2020
Family standing on a beach looking at the sunset. (file).

Photo: 123RF

Since lockdown, New Zealand parents are continuing to spend more time with their kids, according to new results from a nationwide survey carried out by health insurer NIB.

This is the best thing to come out in the results, says parenting commentator Nathan Wallis, who was an advisor on the survey.

"The bright side or the silver lining to this is just getting to spend more time with the kids. And I think people appreciated how valuable that is and how it's good for the whole whānau - so they're continuing.

"Investing in the children, spending more time with our kids makes us stronger families and stronger as a nation."

The survey showed that toddlers and teenagers had the hardest time with lockdown, he says.

"When you understand brain development, it's not surprising to me that toddlers and teenagers would be the ones who'd have the biggest reaction to lockdown 'cause they're the two stages of your development when you're really in the emotional brain."

Parents said their biggest concerns with teenagers were screen time and social media.

Finding help for kids showing signs of anxiety and depression was another issue, with the survey showing 25 percent of parents didn't know how to access it.

If your child is showing the first signs of depression or anxiety, advice is available from free call helplines or a GP, Wallis says. At the other end of the scale, professional help is available for teenagers with signs of bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. But many parents who are a couple of months down the track, feeling exhausted after trying to help their teenager with strategies suggested by people at the helplines, don't know what to do, he says.

During lockdown, many adults, too, realised that they need to learn self-calming techniques, Wallis says. He recommends focused breathing for a couple of minutes twice a day.

"If everyone suffering from anxiety and depression did two minutes in the morning and two minutes in the evening of controlled breathing, they would do a lot to relieve their anxiety and depression."

Lack of motivation in teenagers also came through as a parental concern in the survey results, which isn't surprising when you look at the adolescent brain, Wallis says.

"As parents, we have to encourage them, we have to ride that fine line between helping and supporting them to do something and crossing that line to just be nagging them and on their case all the time. It's more about setting it up to make it easy for the teenager to go and do something."