Cover Mum, entrepreneur and educator Ramita Anand is empowering young girls by talking about their mental health.

Ramita Anand has built Elevate, a platform that not only empowers pre-adolescent teens, but also provides a support system for parents to be the best versions of themselves

No matter the generation or location, parenting doesn’t come easy. And with an ever-evolving technology and media landscape, the role of a parent has become even more complicated, opines mother, entrepreneur, and teacher, Ramita Anand. She believes that parenting needs to evolve and grow in tandem, and it starts with involving children in the parenting process.  

The Vancouver-raised and London-based educator started Elevate RA mentoring services in 2021 to work with pre-adolescent girls who are vulnerable, at-risk or disadvantaged. She started the Elevate brand with a podcast series in 2020, a platform where she shares her speakers' experiences and challenges in raising empowered young girls. The conversation also taps on the positive outcomes that result when we start the conversation around mental health from a young age. 

We chat with the mother-mentor on how parents can become better support systems for their children and what are some lessons she’s learnt through the intersections of education and motherhood.

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How did your personal experiences shape Elevate RA?

Ramita Anand (RA): As a teen, I lost my mother to cancer and was thrown into the realms of taking on the surrogate mother role for my younger two siblings. Growing up in Vancouver with a single Indian father, dealing with feelings and emotions wasn’t part of my upbringing.

Only after teaching middle school students and becoming a mother myself, I started to deal with the nostalgia and grief from losing my own mother. More so, when my son was diagnosed with autism, I took part in enrichment departments in London to better understand how to be a better parent for a neurodiverse child. I worked with kids who had ADHD, autism, dyslexia, Asperger’s—you name it.

It was during these sessions that I spent with girls in their pre-teen years that really struck a chord with me. Many of them didn’t feel accepted and sought attention in unhealthy ways, but also held themselves back from diving into typically ‘male’ subjects such as science and mathematics.

I wanted to create a platform where I not only wanted to give children and parents the tools and strategies to deal with their issues inside and outside the classroom but remind young girls that they have someone to believe in them—only then they can believe in themselves. I built Elevate RA around certain attributes, or “superpowers” as I like to call them, that are absolutely crucial in their development—confidence, emotional intelligence, empathy, resilience and kindness.

What is gentle parenting, and do you think it helps parents to become better support systems for their young girls?

RA: A lot of people misconstrue gentle parenting as giving your children the freedom to wreak havoc everywhere, but it’s not. The term ‘gentle’ doesn’t sit right, so I like to call it partnership parenting. It’s about using reasoning and accountability to set clear boundaries that both you and your kids agree to.

Most strict parenting comes from a place of fear, where we want to shield our children from the hardships of life, especially our daughters. However, it’s these hardships that teach them how to be independent.

Another important facet to parenting alongside your children is teaching them not to bottle their emotions inside. In many Asian cultures, sharing your vulnerabilities can be seen as a sign of weakness and so it is frowned upon to talk about these topics. The more we normalise that talking about mental health care is not a sign of weakness, rather one of bravery, we can begin to shift the narrative around the relationship we have with it.

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Social media plays a massive role in shaping the identities and the mental health of teenagers. How can parents navigate this with their kids, and especially daughters?

RA: With the pandemic forcing us all to be indoors, many children were left to their own devices—literally. In the pre-teen and teenage years, children use this opportunity to form an identity away from their parents and seek validation from peers (online and in real life). This leads to a whole new host of problems such as misguided information and media addiction from the constant dopamine hits from each notification of every ‘like’ or ‘follow’.

Before you give access to these devices, be clear about the expectations and consequences of their actions in the digital space. The difference between when we were little and this new generation of tech-savvy kids is that we didn’t have the threat of our mistakes zig-zagging across the internet looming over our heads. 

Just as there is preventative medicine, I also talk to students and parents about preventative education. I believe our girls can benefit from being taught strategies that will help them face the changes of their middle school years with greater confidence and poise, and I go into greater detail about this concept in my upcoming book, Girl Elevated.

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What are some ways parents can change their parenting techniques to suit their child's individual needs?

RA: It’s not uncommon for parents everywhere to feel lost and concerned about the well-being of their children, but that doesn’t mean we have to resort to using the same parenting techniques our parents raised us, or their parents raised their kids. Since a lot of our parenting is subconscious, we tend to follow in these generational—sometimes even toxic—tendencies even though they have no place in today's generation.

Parents need to assess their parenting style with a whole different level of awareness to be able to break the chain. Especially in multicultural family dynamics, there is a sense of heritage or culture that parents are relentlessly trying to pass down to future generations. Societies evolve and if we don’t evolve with them, we don’t move forward.

RA: I also really advocate involving your kids in the parenting process, by getting their opinions and input on how they are raised. One way to do that is to make a contract with your children, where both parties are held accountable.

This is the best time to discuss everything on the negotiating table, from bedtime, what apps they use, how many hours a week they spend on social media, and even where their devices sit at the end of the day. Use this as an opportunity to understand what your children want and believe they need, and connect with them on their level. When they see that you respect their wishes, they will learn how to hold themselves accountable in the process, and learn how to stand up for their needs.

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What are three parenting lessons from your experience you want to share with other parents?

RA: First, normalise making mistakes, learning and unlearning at every age and let your children steer the ship. Even in the classroom, sometimes the best teachers are the students themselves.

Second, sometimes a neutral adult—whether it’s their piano teacher, tennis coach or a mentor—is what your child needs to be able to share their feelings. This is what I want to reinforce with Elevate RA because I want to show parents that this is a normal part of their children’s lives. 

Finally, parent the child in front of you—not the one you’ve created magically in your head, and with the expectations that you’ve thrown on them. We need to acknowledge their accomplishments, support their failures, identify their individual needs and stop providing solutions that force them to fit inside a mould.

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