Protecting your child's mental health ensures that they are emotionally competent young adults in the future
Beaut&Beast sat down with Nikkie to discuss the importance of mental health for a mother and child. Mental health is something that was never discussed growing up in my family. If it was mentioned, it was in a negative light. Where did this stigma of mental health stem from? How can we overcome it as a mother? Meet Nikkie. She is on tract to receive her phD in forensic psychology and works with families on a daily basis to tackle this issue. Nikkie believes that formal education gave her the foundation to base a lot of her ideologies on and the understanding of human behavior and psychology. She chose a career in this field because she grew up without a father. He left home when she was 4 yrs. old and she wanted to make sense of the reasoning behind his actions. In addition to this, she always wanted to know why people made the decisions that they made and how their childhoods shaped their reasoning. Read our interview below for an insight on this issue, ways to tackle the barriers, and more advice from Nikkie on how to start teaching yourself.
- Why is it important to develop a strong relationship with your child? Any advice on how a new mother can build trust, get their child to answer questions, etc.? I think that it is essential to provide your child with a secure base in which they can launch and re-launch from if need be. A lot of people don’t realize that we all have attachment styles as adults that we project in our romantic relationships, friendships, and interactions with others. The nucleuses of these attachment styles were formulated during our childhoods and we carry them into adulthood and continue to mimic outside relationships to those we are familiar with sharing with our parents. I believe that the stigma of being your child’s best friend and the negative connotations attached to it is silly. Why wouldn’t you want to be your child’s confidante, blanket of protection, and friend? If you aren’t, trust me, someone else is and that person may not have their best interest in mind. The advice that I would give to new parents when it comes to building trust is to first realize that you must raise the child that you have and not the child that you may have wished for. I think having unfair expectations on children impedes the trust process and may deter children from being open for fear of not living up to expectations. Next, I would recommend unconditional support and constant positive re-enforcement. This creates an environment where a child is comfortable enough to let their guard down and allow themselves to be emotionally naked.
- Is the saying “children take after their parents” with merit? Why or why not? Ahhh. The infamous “nature vs nurture” adage. I would like to think that children do get things from their parents that are hereditary and some studies assert the huge impact that parental influence has on children’s development. HOWEVER, I feel that as adults, people have the autonomy to change things and stop making excuses or blaming their parents for their actions. Now this doesn’t include individuals who suffer from particular mental disorders but I think too many people lean on the “this is the way I was made” or “I get it from my mama/daddy” excuses. Change is constant and while that influence is heavy during childhood, adulthood (and maybe even early adolescence) allows us to lean into our own understanding of things and adjust ourselves accordingly
- What are some negative habits that seem to trend in today’s society that a mom should avoid displaying in front of kids? I think that mothers should stop projecting their fears onto their children as it stunts their growth and makes them take on such fears. A lot of times, mothers can be "hoverers" and do not let their children properly spread their wings and venture into things that may go against the grain of their own thinking. This is very tragic to me as I hate when dreams are killed before they start. Another negative habit that I think mothers should avoid is slut shaming and stifling their daughters’ sensuality, sense of self, and sexuality. I have always said that some of the most misogynist people I know are women. Reinforcing stigmas and negative stereotypes perpetuated by society is not going to help your child, nor will trying to get them to accept that you didn’t make the rules but “this is just the way things are”. Lastly, I think that mothers should stop attempting to be perfect and spotless in front of their children because it doesn’t create a realistic view of them as people. Women make mistakes, we fall short, we get our feelings hurt, we face rejection, and we get up and live another day. Displaying this to children will give them a realistic view of adulthood and resilience.
- Some women stay in miserable relationships to avoid providing their child with a broken home. Is this healthy or worth it, why or why not? Oh my goodness, NO! It’s a double edge sword that affects both the woman and her child(ren). Children pick up on energy and know when things are not right. Ideally, when women stay in relationships that are not thriving, it shows not only in their energy but in the dynamics between her and her spouse. With this being said, what is this teaching her children about relationships? What is this teaching her children about love? Happiness?WORTH? Women who think they are doing their children a favor by watering dead plants in a relationship are misguided because broken children come from two parent households too. I think that the best thing my parents did for me was get divorced. It showed me autonomy and it also let me see them both find love again in people who made them happy. This set the stage for me in my future relationships. When my own marriage began to crumble some years back, I got a divorce and took my happiness back. Not only did I free myself from bondage but I am a better woman who can parent her son as I am not pouring from an empty cup.
- Mental health is something that is rarely discussed in low income households. Why do you feel it is overlooked? Fear.Stigmas.Lack of knowledge.Lack of resources and supports. To be honest, many people who dwell in low income households cannot afford to have mental illnesses because they are so consumed with making ends meet and supporting their households. Self-care is a foreign concept to them because they have other things on their plate and they most likely were never educated on its importance or never witnessed their own parents use it. The stigma of mental health is another barrier as people do not want to seem crazy to others and are unaware that mental disorders are not entities that only plague a “crazy population”. The same goes for treatment as people in low income households are not always privy to the plethora of support and resources that are available to them. Lastly, there is a mantra of toughness and resilience in low income households. Some individuals see making it through alright and turning lemons into lemonade as a badge of honor.
- Is it important to do “mental checks” with yourself and your child? Absolutely as mental checks equate to self-care and if you are not caring for self, you cannot perform at your maximized potential. With children, parents can begin to lose their influence on their kids and their peers can pick up where they left off. Parents should always keep their child’s mental health in mind as many children suffer in silence with bullying, suicide ideation, sexual abuse, and depression right under their parents’ noses.
- Any advice for mothers to start getting in touch with their child, to understand where their mind is at? Keeping that line of communication open is essential. Having a “judgment free zone” ideology when interacting is also ideal. When children feel that their parents are going to be angry, judgmental, or sad; they shut down and may only give up half the information or none at all in hopes of protecting the parent and themselves. Fostering open and nurturing conversations and relationships are ideal for staying in touch with children. Sometimes, I self-disclose events or actions of mine from my own past to my son to show him that I too, was once a kid and dealt with some of the same things he’s going through. This helps him release his guard and open up to me even more.
- Do you feel that a child can feel when a mother is not at peace, can this rub off on their child? I do. Again, children pick up on the energy and temperament of their parents. In addition to this, people’s actions change when they are going through stress or are depressed and this is easily picked up on. Although children may not articulate that they feel a shift, they feel it and they can take it on and release it in their own temperaments and actions.
- What are some routines you’ve picked up to help you be mentally balanced? I give myself time to myself. As an individual who deals with people and their issues every day, I have to re-center myself and restore my peace. I am an introvert so it is very much so important for me to spend time with myself and recharge my battery. I have a favorite room in my house where I allow myself to light my candles, pour me a cup of tea or wine, play my records and just…be. I also understand and utilize the word “no”. This is very important because it allows me to protect my peace and not engage in activities that I know will lower my vibrations. Surrounding myself with positive people also helps because they keep my spirits lifted and encourage me to be the best me. I also write. I am a person who lives in her head so sometimes I do not know how I’m feeling until I release my feelings and see my words on paper.
- What would you say is the biggest mental struggle that is common in single mother homes judging from your interactions with other mothers, social media, etc.? I think single mother homes are chock full of lofty expectations that mothers put on themselves when it comes to caliber of child they will raise. In addition to the pressure of having to possibly wear both parental hats (that is if the father is not active in the lives of their children), single mothers have to battle outside influences that their children may be open to such as peer influence, social media, societal pressure, and systematic oppression. This is a very heavy outfit that a single mother wears every day and it definitely wears her down as she endures it every day. The first thing that she will need to realize is that she cannot be her child’s father. As much as women pride themselves on being both “a mother and a father” to their children, I believe that this is a mirage as women cannot offer the same substance and weight in which a father can. If this were the case, fatherless children would not be so vulnerable to childhood and adolescent adversity. Single mothers can definitely be the best mother that they possibly can and should not beat themselves up or try to over zealously try to fill both shoes as it is insanity. Also in regards to outside influences, again keeping that open line of communication and judgment free disposition is vital because you want to know what is going on with your children when you are not around and what they are facing.
To educate your child, you must educate yourself as well. Below are Nikkie's recommendations for self health
I am currently on tour for the Sip and Become workshop that is specifically targeted to women who need healing-and that’s all of us. In these workshops, women from all over get together and over brunch and bottomless wine glasses, we talk about life’s transgressions, experiences, and lessons. I facilitate the “Sip and Own It” portion of the workshop and teach women how to begin to own every facet of their being. For tour locations and dates, women can go to our tour page on IG: @sipandbecometour or my IG page @nikkiesthoughts. It’s definitely something that you don’t want to miss!
Anything by Ntozake Shange. She’s my favorite writer and beautifully creates pieces tailored to women-especially Black women. Then there’s Nikki Giovanni, Assata, and Angela Davis. These women epitomize freedom and rejection of white washed ideologies. My sister Nyeesha Williams has penned two amazing books: HERStorys and 90 Days which talks about all of the issues that women go through but have been taught to suffer in silence about. She tackles everything from sexual abuse to growing up without a father and she also has space for journal entries that allow women to release their own demons onto paper.
My love, Esteli Juarez also has an amazing book called Revolutionary Mothering that I absolutely adore and would recommend for mothers wishing to raise children who think outside the box. I am in the process of writing two books “Broken Compass” and “Worth” which I plan to release by the end of the year.