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Jerry Seinfeld, the US comedian, once summed up parenting young children with the sentence ‘Having a two-year-old is like having a blender that doesn’t have a top.’

Even in the best of times, raising our children comes with its challenges, but with anxiety and mental health issues on the rise around the world, many parents find themselves struggling to cope.

And it’s no joke, as the mental health of parents plays a crucial role in shaping the mental health of our children. A recent survey by the National Alliance on Mental Illness, it found that one in five parents reported having poor mental health, with financial stress and work-life balance being the most common causes of stress.

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Meanwhile, evidence continues to show that children’s experiences during their early years can have a lasting impact on their mental health as adults.

A study by the National Institute of Mental Health found that adults who experienced adverse childhood events such as abuse, neglect, and household dysfunction were more likely to experience mental health problems and substance abuse later in life.

On the reverse side, positive childhood experiences can have a lasting impact on a child’s mental well-being. According to a study published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, children who report high levels of parental warmth and support are less likely to experience anxiety and depression as adults.

So we turned to renowned expert Dr Rangan Chatterjee, author of Happy Mind, Happy Life and host of the hit podcast Feel Better, Live More, for his thoughts on parenting in the modern age.

He told our ‘the mentl space’ podcast, that he believes that parents are trying their best to raise their children based on their own understanding and circumstances.

“Parenting can be a challenging and overwhelming task, and it is easy to feel guilty when we hear advice that we may not have followed. It is important to remember that you can’t undo what you’ve done in the past and to focus on making positive changes in the present.”

Talking about his own habits in the home, Dr Chatterjee himself is very mindful about his phone use around his children and rarely uses it in front of them, particularly insisting on no technology at dinner times.

One of his regular practices is playing a “Gratitude Game” at the dinner table.

“We play a Gratitude Game every night at the dinner table…where we all go around answering three questions. What’s one thing I’ve done today to make somebody else happy? What’s one thing somebody else has done today to make me happy? And what have I learned today?”

He explains the significance of this exercise, saying, “This simple exercise is devastatingly effective.”

“I initially thought this could be really good for my kids, but then I thought, ‘Oh, I feel pretty good after doing this exercise’.”

Dr Chatterjee believes that the biggest lesson he has learned in his 12 and a half years of parenting is that: “Kids don’t really do what you tell them to do, they do what they see you doing.”

“If we want to change our children’s behaviours, we have to look in the mirror first and ask what are we modelling?” He acknowledges the need to change some of his own behaviours and to be honest with his kids, even when it comes to admitting mistakes.

He believes that embracing imperfection and owning up to mistakes is a more effective way of raising children than trying to be perfect.

“I don’t think my parents would ever have admitted a mistake to me, you know, so I then grow up with this idea that you have to be perfect. As a parent, I realised, actually, that’s ridiculous, because if you then show your kids that you are perfect, what are you setting them up for?

“So, I try and embrace imperfection and own up. I’m honest with my kids…I say, ‘Hey, I’m really sorry that I actually made a mistake.’ I think it’s really powerful.

It is essential for parents to prioritise their own mental health and well-being, as it not only benefits them but also has a ripple effect on their children’s mental health.

As Dr Chatterjee said: “We can always try and improve things. The mental health of parents is just as important as the mental health of their children.”