Discussing mental health in kids and teens with author Adeeba Jafri

Discussing mental health in kids and teens with author Adeeba Jafri

Qatar Living
By Qatar Living

Doha’s very own Adeeba Jafri is a published author that writes inspirational books that address very important issues. A Pakistani-American writer and teacher from NY, Jafri and her family have been in Qatar for 13 years. Currently, she has published four children's books and a YA novella. While Jafri’s books are engaging, they also explore a common theme that is very valuable, and that is the topic of mental health. 

According to Jafri,““A Zoom with a View” is a hilarious picture book that looks at the challenges of virtual learning, except that the characters in my book are all animals. “Show Yourself” is a YA novella that revolves around the lives of three teenage girls in a Muslim community-based in North America.” Her recent book explores the challenges typical teenagers face in this day and age. This includes factors such as sibling rivalries, friendships, academics, and the use of deciding. The book explores teen relationships from an intricate perspective and inspires conversation around common teenage mental health struggles. 

It is clear that the pandemic has impacted the lives of individuals, but Jafri recognizes that some factors that made it very difficult for ex-pats was the sudden shift to remote work and virtual learning, financial pressures, a complete change in daily routine, and the physical and emotional effects of social isolation. As a result, many families were left with no choice but to leave in the midst of the pandemic. 

Jafri tells Qatar Living, “It’s no wonder that the number of people diagnosed with mental issues such as anxiety, depression, and stress has skyrocketed.” 

Children, particularly those in upper elementary and middle school who are still developing socio-emotional abilities, are the most prone to mental health disorders. Jafri explains that when students deal with anxiety, loneliness, or depression, it not only affects their overall well-being, but it can also have a detrimental impact on classroom behavior, academic performance, and dropout rates.

Although she mentions that she isn’t specialized in mental health, Jafri does know what it’s like to be ignored or overlooked in the face of technology. She has witnessed her childrens’ expressions when their friends would prefer their devices over having a conversation and observed it at work in the hallway when walking down the corridors of the high school. As a result, Jafri is aware of some solutions to help teenagers feel more engaged, communicate how they feel, and become more present. 

Jafri states, “The first step to getting children to talk to one another or an adult is by first acknowledging their presence. It seems like an impossible feat for teenagers who are easily distracted but putting their phones aside and really looking at one another, talking face to face, would be the first step to forging a connection and addressing those underlying issues.” 

As a teacher, Jafri is well aware of the connection between mental health and technology. She states that although parents are often told “talk to your kids,” kids are not keen on openly communicating in this day and age. This is because kids enjoy communicating with one another on their phones, laptops, or tablets. Jafri advises parents to keep an unapologetic grip on their kids' devices. Rather than allowing children to take their devices to bed with them, it might be a better idea to keep them in a private place. She mentions, “You don’t always have to invade their privacy by checking messages. Based on my experience, that will make them even more secretive. Rather, just be around them when they’re on the computers or tablets.” 

In order to support and inspire her children, Jafri’s kookiness is an important factor that has helped. During the lockdown, her kids were able to watch her process as a writer. Jafri’s children were able to experience her pulling the car over to the side in order to write down an idea or having the laptop open in the kitchen to pen down thoughts. As a result, Jafri had a touching experience when she walked into her daughter’s room and found her writing her own book. 

Jafri’s take on school is a valuable reminder of the importance of kids’ mental health. Fortunately, Jafri plans to continue to write to inspire. Her upcoming book is about a group of middle school hackers. Excitingly, it is a different perspective on students that is sure to be an inspirational and thought-provoking read. 

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