Think x Rainbow - Parental Support-Line
Are you worried about your child's mental health, but are at a loss on how to support him / her?
Share your concerns by filling in your details below. You will receive a confirmation email on the next steps.
Our certified counsellors will get back to you within 24 hours (Monday - Friday)
Subsequently, a live-chat session can be initiated with one of our counsellors / psychologists
Our live-chat operating hours: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday 11am-1pm (SGT)
Parenting & Youth Mental Health
- A study published in 2022 shows that one in three young people in Singapore exhibit symptoms of mental health issues (up from 1 in 3 back in 2017, a huge jump largely due to the impact of the pandemic);
- Another study published in 2021 revealed, the number of those aged 10 to 24 diagnosed with depression at one healthcare group grew four-fold between 2013 and 2018 – a more rapid increase than for any other age group;
- During the pandemic, in the second half of 2020, 52 per cent of young respondents in National Youth Council polls said mental well-being was a challenge;
- Samaritans of Singapore (SOS) recently released in a statement that the 476 suicides reported in 2022 was a 25.9% increase from the previous year’s total of 378;
- The SOS figures showed that the highest number of deaths in 2022 was among people aged 20 to 29; suicide is now the leading cause of death among young people in this age group;
- More and more young people are engaging in self harm;
- COVID-19 has only exacerbated the situation - especially among youths. Mental health has now become a crisis that needs immediate attention and action.
Youth addictions today pose a significant concern in society, as young individuals increasingly face a range of addictive behaviours and substances. These addictions can have detrimental effects on their physical, mental, and emotional well-being, as well as their overall development and future prospects.
Here is a synopsis of the various types of youth addictions prevalent today:
Substance Abuse: Substance abuse remains a pressing issue among youth. Common substances include alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, prescription drugs, and illicit drugs like cocaine or opioids. Peer pressure, curiosity, stress, and a desire to experiment often contribute to initial usage, which can quickly escalate into addiction.
Internet and Gaming Addiction: With the rise of technology, youth addiction to the internet and video games has become a growing concern. Excessive use of social media platforms, online gaming, and other digital activities can lead to compulsive behaviour, social isolation, poor academic performance, and disrupted sleep patterns.
Gambling Addiction: Problematic gambling among youth has also gained attention. Accessible online gambling platforms, sports betting, and mobile gaming apps have made it easier for young individuals to engage in gambling activities, leading to addiction and financial troubles.
Pornography Addiction: The ready availability of explicit content online has contributed to the emergence of pornography addiction among young people. Exposure to explicit material at an early age can lead to distorted views of relationships, unhealthy sexual behaviours, and difficulties in forming intimate connections.
Eating Disorders: While not traditionally categorized as an addiction, eating disorders like anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder can involve addictive patterns. Young individuals may develop an unhealthy obsession with food, body image, and weight control, leading to severe physical and psychological consequences.
Self-Harm and Substance Use: Some young individuals may develop co-occurring addictions, such as self-harm and substance use. These behaviours often arise from underlying mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, or trauma, and require comprehensive treatment approaches.
Addressing youth addictions requires a multifaceted approach involving education, prevention programs, early intervention, counselling, and support services. It is crucial for parents, schools, healthcare providers, and community/society as a whole to prioritize the well-being of young people and work collaboratively to provide the necessary resources and interventions to combat youth addictions effectively.
When a child is struggling with addiction, it can be an incredibly challenging and overwhelming experience for parents.
Here are some ways to help parents navigate this difficult situation and support their child:
Educate and Raise Awareness: Provide parents with accurate and up-to-date information about addiction, including its causes, signs, and available treatment options. Help them understand that addiction is a complex disease and not a result of parental failure or shortcomings.
Encourage Open Communication: Create a safe and non-judgmental space for parents to express their concerns, fears, and emotions. Encourage them to have open and honest conversations with their child about the addiction, ensuring that communication lines remain open throughout the recovery process.
Offer Emotional Support: Parents often experience feelings of guilt, shame, anger, and confusion when dealing with their child's addiction. Offer empathy, understanding, and reassurance, reminding them that seeking help is a sign of strength and that they are not alone in this journey.
Provide Information on Treatment Options: Help parents explore different treatment options available for their child's specific addiction. This may include inpatient or outpatient rehabilitation programs, therapy, support groups, or counselling services. Provide them with resources and contact information for reputable treatment providers.
Encourage Self-Care: Remind parents to prioritize their own well-being during this challenging time. Encourage them to engage in self-care activities, seek support from their own network, and consider attending support groups specifically designed for parents of children with addiction.
Facilitate Parenting Skills Development: Offer guidance and resources on effective parenting strategies for supporting a child with addiction. This may involve setting appropriate boundaries, practicing tough love when necessary, and finding a balance between support and enabling behaviours.
Connect with Support Networks: Help parents connect with local support groups or organizations that specialize in assisting families affected by addiction. These groups can provide valuable guidance, understanding, and a sense of community with others facing similar challenges.
Encourage Professional Help: If needed, guide parents in seeking professional help for themselves, such as therapy or counselling. This can provide them with a safe space to process their emotions, gain coping skills, and develop effective strategies for supporting their child's recovery.
Foster Hope and Resilience: Remind parents that recovery is possible and that their support and love can make a significant difference in their child's journey. Encourage them to focus on fostering hope, resilience, and a belief in their child's capacity for change and healing.
Supporting parents through their child's addiction requires compassion, patience, and a collaborative approach. By providing them with the necessary information, resources, and emotional support, you can help empower parents to navigate this challenging situation and become a positive force in their child's recovery process.
Parents should consider seeking professional advice for their child's addiction under various circumstances.
While each situation is unique, here are some indicators that may suggest the need for professional intervention:
Persistent or Escalating Addiction: If the child's addiction persists or worsens despite parental efforts to address the issue, it may be time to seek professional advice. This could involve an increase in frequency or intensity of substance use, uncontrolled behaviours related to addiction, or a lack of progress in recovery attempts.
Severe Physical or Mental Health Consequences: If the child's addiction is causing significant physical or mental health problems, it is crucial to seek professional assistance. This includes situations where there is noticeable deterioration in the child's overall well-being, significant weight loss, self-harm, suicidal ideation, or deteriorating academic or occupational performance.
Risky or Dangerous Behaviours: When the child engages in high-risk or dangerous behaviours due to their addiction, professional advice should be sought promptly. Examples may include driving under the influence, involvement in criminal activities, or association with individuals who pose a threat to their safety.
Emotional Distress or Mental Health Issues: If the child exhibits emotional distress, co-occurring mental health disorders, or signs of psychological instability alongside their addiction, professional help should be sought. These may include symptoms of anxiety, depression, trauma-related issues, or other mental health conditions that require specialized treatment.
Failed Attempts at Self-Help or Family Interventions: If the child's addiction has not responded to self-help approaches or interventions implemented by the family, seeking professional advice is essential. Professionals with expertise in addiction treatment can provide a more comprehensive assessment, tailored strategies, and specialized interventions that may be more effective.
Strained Family Dynamics or Conflict: When the child's addiction creates significant strain within the family, leading to constant conflict, disruption of daily life, or breakdown in communication, seeking professional guidance can be beneficial. Family therapy or counselling can help address these issues and improve overall family functioning.
Lack of Resources or Knowledge: If parents feel overwhelmed or lack the necessary resources and knowledge to effectively support their child through addiction, seeking professional advice is crucial. Addiction professionals can provide guidance, education, and connect families to appropriate treatment services and support networks.
- Unconditional love is important - but not sufficient; parents need to demonstrate love and trust and invest in building the moral compass, character and belief system in their children;
- Teach our children the law of cause and consequences, and the law of harvest – we reap what we sow;
- While we may not be able to problem-solve for every possible scenario, developing parental agility allows us to navigate this journey more constructively, without missing opportunities for human growth and transformation to flourish as a family;
- Develop the skill of calm, acceptance and understand our role in nurturing a confident child;
- Shift from tolerating differences to cultivate empathy, non-judgement, and curiosity about divergent thinking and behaviour;
- Create a psychologically safe home environment for lifelong learning and unlocking potential;
- It’s not what you do for your children, but what you have taught them to do for themselves - through role-modelling as a mentor and coach - that will make them successful human beings.
Long before “Silicon Valley” entered our lexicon, Mr Yen-Lu Chow was there carving a tech career with Apple back in the early 1990s. He is a pioneer in speech recognition technology, holder of six international patents, serial entrepreneur, angel investor, government advisor and mentor.
Life took a tragic turn after he lost his 26-year-old son to suicide in 2009. His son Lawrance had struggled with manic depression for years. In his memory, Mr Chow and his wife Yee Ling started Over-The-Rainbow, a not-for-profit family foundation which champions mental wellness in youths and parents. “We just want to promote a lifestyle of wellness so that a young person will never have to reach the point of being clinically depressed,” he had said.
In this Q&A with Schoolbag, he shares lessons on building purpose, resilience and mental wellness in children.
Schoolbag: You recently addressed 100 teachers at a secondary school about raising future-ready kids. What were some of your suggestions?
Mr Chow: To nurture future-ready learners, we have to bring innovation into the classroom, to nurture not just the brain but also the heart. We can begin by inculcating these five Cs: compassion, courage, curiosity, commitment and calmness. Cultivating our kids’ hearts isn’t about telling them these values, but by role-modelling these values and demonstrating kindness in everything that we do.
Thomas Edison said that success is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration. This inspiration comes from the heart. When we try to solve problems or pain points for humanity, the solutions are best when it comes from the heart. That’s why educating the heart is important.
Schoolbag: How else can we help children to put their heart into what they do?
Mr Chow: I like to quote Steve Jobs, who said that we have to help people look inside and find that inner spark. Most of the time, kids are told what to do by their parents, teachers and society. We must help them discover that thing that they’re truly passionate about.
Once our kids find it, they will be on a quest. They’ll ask more questions, pursue that passion and find a purpose. Resilience comes from that. That’s what entrepreneurs do – they find a problem they’re obsessed about. They want to solve the issue, no matter what. Even if there's a temporary setback.
How else do you inculcate resilience? By giving kids enough space to try things. We’ve become impatient, expecting instant results. We need to let them learn delayed gratification. If our kids watch a YouTube video on how to make cookies, encourage them to go on and try it out till they make it. Burn something! Just don’t burn down the house.
Schoolbag: In earlier media interviews, you’ve mentioned that you’re an expert on failure. And that you like reading about failures in CVs.
Mr Chow: I’ve been an angel investor for almost 20 years. Around 90% of startups fail. Almost by definition, the first time you start something, you’re going to fail. In the startup space, people look at that as a badge of honour. Failure is very common; it’s not something to be ashamed of. Every failure is an opportunity to learn something and grow from there.
Most learning takes place during failure, not success. So I love to see someone who says on their CV, "Oh, I did this startup a few years ago" and then "I also started another thing". It's about taking action, not giving up, and constantly learning something.
Schoolbag: After you started Over-The-Rainbow with your wife, you use the platform to discuss “mental wellness” as opposed to “mental health”. What’s the difference to you between the two?
Mr Chow: Mental health is like something you either have or you don't. If somebody doesn’t have mental health, they have mental illness. Mental wellness on the other hand is a spectrum. Wherever you are in your life or state of mind, you can always become happier. This, to me, is mental wellness. At Over-The-Rainbow, we want to help to give you tools and strategies to reach the next stage on your mental-wellness journey.
We started talking about self-care eight to nine years ago and developed programmes around self-care. By exercising the different dimensions of self-care, we believe that people can achieve true happiness.
Schoolbag: How can parents help their children avoid mental health struggles?
Mr Chow: Prevention, pre-emption and early intervention. That's what Over-The-Rainbow focuses on. Going back to mental wellness, when does the journey begin? It begins when you decide to take responsibility and ownership of your mental health.
To get a child to take ownership of their own mental wellness, parents must be role-models and take ownership of theirs first. Taking ownership means doing something pro-actively for your own well-being, whether it’s physical, intellectual, emotional, social or spiritual. For example, we should get sufficient rest; pick up hobbies that engage our minds, and let go of toxic or negative emotions.
The problem for some of us is that we don't pay attention until we're in a crisis. This goes for me too. We need to shift our mindset and decide that "Okay, I don't want to be in a crisis mode; it’s not a good place to be”. We have to commit and take time out on a regular basis to practise self-care and renew all aspects of our wellbeing, so our children can also see how it’s done.
And let me tell you, it works. There's no magic. So many youths come to us while facing some challenges. We give them the tools and the environment: support, self-discovery activities, and the chance to do something to exercise their passion and talent. We help them connect with their dreams and aspirations so that they can lead the lives that they’re meant to live and feel happier. It’s about finding meaning and purpose in their lives.
As a result, they were able to mostly heal and transform into someone with better emotional and mental health. This helps them bounce back more easily from adversity, trauma and stress. They can maintain a positive outlook on life and have high self-esteem despite experiencing difficult situations.
Schoolbag: What’s a key parenting habit that will contribute to a child’s success later in life?
Mr Chow: Rule number one, don’t be a helicopter parent. Love your child unconditionally but don’t do everything for them. Make them contribute around the house. When I was a kid, we always helped with housework. We had no maid, no help, nothing. Teach them the law of harvest. You want this? You’ve got to work for it. Money doesn’t fall from trees. Teach them the law of consequences – you do this, this will happen. So often we take away the consequences because us parents don’t have the patience. Are you part of the problem or part of the solution? I don't want to sound so tough, but it’s like that.
Don’t do things for them that they can do. For stuff they cannot do yet, guide them from beginning to the end so that children feel that they’re exercising their passion and their talent. They will feel a sense of satisfaction and pride. It’s the best way to teach your child confidence.
Schoolbag: Is there a Rule number two?
Mr Chow: When they fail, be there for them. Tell them it’s ok to fail, and teach them how to fail – get them to learn from their failures and then try again: Fail, learn, repeat. Help them to ask the right questions of themselves: “What can I learn from this? How can I make this better?” Nurture their mindset to focus on the positive rather than the negative. This will help them pull through all kinds of situations in life, not just in failure.
And always believe in your children. When I look at a young person who’s struggling, I tell them, "This is temporary. I don't see you as you are right now. I see you as where you can be." Validate their fundamental value and worth.
Remind them that good things take time. Trees take time to grow into good, healthy trees. It takes time to become a good person. Many people give up too early; they say, “Things are not going well. I’m done.” Research has shown that being able to practise delayed gratification is the most important determinant of success in life. Teach your children to be patient.