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  • Writer's pictureNeil Parekh

A Candid Conversation With My Daughter About Mental Health

Editor’s Note: This post was reviewed, fact-checked and approved by my favorite person in existence, Emily Parekh

As the father of an 11-year-old girl, I know that big changes are headed our way. We recently saw Inside Out 2 as a family. I’d definitely recommend it. If you haven’t seen the movie, it’s an animated film that shows how the emotions that govern a 13-year-old girl  (e.g. Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger, and Disgust) are joined overnight by Anxiety, Envy, Embarrassment, and Ennui once she enters puberty. (Read more about the film here.)

Sara Wilson, LMFT, is our guest on Ep. 10 of Shining Light on Shadows: A Candid Conversation About Mental Health. Her blog post highlighted some of the themes she hears in her practice when she meets with teens and young adults between the ages of 13 and 23. It was a great opening to talk to my daughter about these issues. Although some of these topics are not playing out yet, it’s a good framework. I have to say, I was very pleased with what I hope will be the first of many father-daughter conversations around these issues. (That’s the hope, right? That even as she enters her teenage years, she’ll still talk to me?)


I will discuss these issues and more on a new show that I launched with Dawn Helmrich, “Shining Light on Shadows: A Candid Conversation About Mental Health.” Sara Wilson, LMFT, a therapist and speaker who works with teens and young adults to support their mental health, will be our guest. You can watch the show Thursday, July 11 at 7pm ET / 6pm CT / 4pm PT or the recording on Facebook, Twitter*, LinkedIn, YouTube, Instagram* and my website. We won't know the exact urls for Twitter and Instagram until we go live.


The Social Jungle: Friendships and Social Media Blues

Emily doesn’t have a smartphone and does not have any social media accounts yet. Getting her a phone is a frequent topic of conversation. I explained how social media works (a little) by talking about her friends and their interactions at recess. Pre-teens and tweens, these are parallels they can relate to. I was able to tell her how everything is amplified when dealing with pictures, likes, friend requests, etc. If you want to read more on the harmful effects of social media on teens, read Sree Sreenivasan’s latest substack, “Social Media is the New Cigarettes.”

Body Image Battles: Building Self-Esteem

Body image is something my wife and I are sensitive about. We have concerns about our own bodies and are mindful about the language we use in Emily’s presence. We also know people who have struggled with eating disorders so we’ve been particularly concerned about how we talk about food. When I asked Emily about it, we started with referring to a pop song, “Victoria’s Secret” from a few years ago. I remember talking with her about it at the time. She understood the issues it raised even then.  I was thankful that she didn’t seem to express serious concerns but it’s definitely something we’re paying attention to.

Academic Stress: The Pressure to Succeed

This was an issue Emily could relate to. Growing up, my peers in the Indian American community talked about the “Sacred A.” My parents didn’t put the same amount of pressure on me as other parents did. They couldn’t. My dad had a  somewhat checkered academic career. He was wicked smart, never had to work very hard and did well up to a point. I had a somewhat similar experience. (I failed several classes and was almost asked to take a year off from school to get my head on straight.) The challenge here is the academic pressure that kids put on themselves. They don’t need us to make things worse.

Mental Health Concerns: Depression, Anxiety, and Eating Disorders

In the blog post for Episode 2, I wrote about how I’m concerned that I would “pass on” my anxiety to Emily. Reviewing these topics with her gave me another opportunity to discuss that with her. It felt good to talk openly with her about it.

Finding Your Identity: Gender Exploration and Self-Discovery

This was the most surprising topic in my conversation with Emily. When I brought it up, she said, without hesitation, “Oh, I know all of the flags” and started to name several. We’ve had very open conversations about gender and identity. It’s reassuring that she is much more aware and understanding of gender identity and sexuality than I was at her age.

Healing from the Unthinkable: Sexual Assault and the Path to Recovery

This was certainly a harder topic, but it’s something we’ve been talking about for years. Last year, I co-hosted Season 3 of “Unspoken: Conversations with Candace,” which was dedicated to male survivors of sexual abuse. People like me. When I published a blog post sharing my story, I talked it out with Emily first. I wanted her to hear about it from me. I was seven years old when I was sexually abused by a neighbor. It’s sobering to think that Emily might experience abuse / assault or even harassment at some point in her life. I can only hope I’ve given her the tools to understand it and talk to us (or another trusted adult) if it happens.

Emily is a little younger than the demographic that Sara Wilson sees in her practice, but I know these issues are going to come into play over the next few years. I just hope that she (and we) are ready for it.

Editor’s Note to the Editor’s Note: The Editor’s Note was written by Emily Parekh


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