RU OK Day is important and symbolic. Its draws a line in the sand. It becomes a focal point. It means you can create a PR strategy and achieve a ground swell on a single day. If that means more people are aware and more people are asking others then that’s a good thing. Right? Of course but…
Prevention is better than cure; start early
How do we shift behaviour and get right down the other side of this scale? We need to do all we can to prevent suicide be that of women, men and children. Every life is precious. What if we could start emotional health practice and routine at childhood via the parent?
If we can help families get emotionally stronger, then fewer might get closer to the precipice whatever life throws at them. A tall order? Yes. Worth a shot? You betcha.
RU OK should be an (almost) daily activity
Checking in with ourselves, with each other and especially with our families on a daily basis. But even more importantly, teaching parents to understand emotional health better so they can coach and guide their kids. That’s where we think we should be heading.
Physical health is much easier than emotional health
We now have a good sense of our physical health. We know what to eat and what not to eat (except on special occasions). We know about the importance of regularly exercise. This stuff is well researched, well documented and for most people, easy knowledge to process.
Emotional health is interesting. The science is quite evolved. The work of psychologists is sophisticated and impactful. Parallel themes like mindfulness, breathing and the cross-over into exercise with yoga continues to gain traction.
Some schools might be leading the way, but parents can help
Whilst well-being is being introduced into schools and our kids might be picking up tips on breathing and mindfulness, there is still much work to do to crystallise the topics.
There are some super progressive schools, when it comes to emotional health, like Geelong Grammar in Melbourne, Australia or Bootham School, York in the UK where the topic is being taught to the kids. The head of Bootham felt that his kids were better prepared than most when it came to lock down, for example. We interviewed some of the heads and principals and what we are learning is that parents can be the disconnect when it come to understanding emotional health.
If the parent doesn’t really understand how to talk to their kids about their fears or the kids struggle to understand their emotions then we may start sliding down that slippery slope where we need RU OK conversations to be initiated. This end of the slope is also where the stigma lies.
We are meeting many people who are smarter, better qualified and just more advanced when it comes to #progressiveparenting. But the vast majority of us still stumble through daily attempts of trying to really understand and support the emotional health of our kids. We feel that there is need and momentum to be part of a movement where we can help each other.
We think parenting is a team sport – let’s look out for each other
It might just be more about us joining together to change parenting. Its the stigma that needs to change. Killing the fallacy of perfect parenting. Being more open and honest as parents. Getting more dads to open up about their emotional well-being and not just the divorced dads (who seem to be much better than most dads at this, based on our research).
Its equally about working with the psychologist community. They do amazing work but we think that we can simplify some of their theories and practice to put them into the hands of more parents.
In the same way that so many medical professionals want more parents to know medicine essentials whether that’s CPR or applying a bandage, we need to take the best of parent-child psychology and teach that to more parents.
Emotional health is like a fitness program – hard work
The challenge is that the results aren’t immediate. Its like a fitness program: takes effort, practice & time. You go backwards as well as forwards. Like learning any new skill you do have those movements of joy. The day when you hit the perfect note or your golf swing is sweet. Sometimes you have to unlearn before you relearn. It’s painful and frustrating on some days.
You have the days when you know you have truly connected with your child. The days when you feel and see that they picked up a new skill from you, the parent. When you see them manage an emotion, a relationship or just a difficult situation with more confidence and true(r) sense of themselves.
That’s the time when perhaps you don’t need to ask if they R OK as often because you’ve helped them to check it out for themselves. What if they are better at feeling and sharing their own emotions?
CEO & Co-founder ParentalEQ: emotionally strong families
Dad, husband, pub-singer and entrepreneur