10 Phrases To Use With Kids To Minimize The Stigma Of Mental Health
Let’s be as honest about our mental health as we are about our physical health. Especially to our kids. We don’t need to go into too much detail and tell them about all of our traumas. However, we can say things like...
1. Sometimes I feel mad too.
Knowing that you're not alone in your feelings is one of the most powerful healing steps. It gives a little bit of comfort knowing there's nothing wrong with you and that feeling sad or mad are normal feelings to have. Sometimes we get upset with children when they are sad or mad which is then making it seem like they are being bad for not being happy. Which then makes them feel like there's something wrong with them. When there is nothing wrong with them at all. They are only being human.
2. It’s Okay.
Probably my all time favorite phrase and what I use daily with Charlie because tantrums are usually a daily occurrence. There is nothing wrong with that either. It’s developmental for his age. Regardless of the age though, it’s okay. It’s okay for them to feel sad, angry, mad, scared, etc.. Instead of saying ”You’re Okay” try saying “It’s Okay”. Saying you’re okay is in a way dismissing their feelings and telling them how they should feel. Let them tell you when they’re not okay because there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Like the saying goes... it’s okay not to be okay. It’s important for people to learn that at a young age.
3. I’m going to see my therapist to talk about my big feelings.
This is a conversation that came up in one of my therapy sessions. When Charlie was a baby she told me I could bring him to sessions if that was easiest. I asked her what will I tell my kids for when I do have to leave for therapy sessions. She told me to tell them that you're going to therapy. If they ask what therapy is then tell them it's to talk about your big feelings that you sometimes have. You are learning how to cope with them better. This is leading by example. If you’re not working on your own emotional intelligence then why should they?
4. When I feel sad, I sometimes go on a walk outside.
Kids aren't born with coping strategies. As an adult, it's your job to teach them ways on how to cope. It’s not your job to dismiss them or punish them for it. Obviously this will look different for different ages.
5. Try Again.
This is another one of my go to phrases when Charlie is throwing a tantrum. I say it when he is screaming or whining for something he wants. I've taught him that when I am saying try again I'm asking him to take a deep breath. Because that seems much more affective than kicking and screaming. I keep on saying and signing “more” until he has calmed down.
6. I’m sorry I yelled at you. I was mad about something else.
Because adults make mistakes too!! It's so important for kids to understand that. Adults aren't perfect and if you grow up thinking that then when you "fail" as an adult you may think something is wrong with you. I‘m saying this from experience! Teaching by example is the best way to teach a kid anything. So if we expect our children to apologize for their mistakes, adults need to do the same as well.
7. When I feel mad, I try to take deep breaths to help calm me down.
I learned this trick a few years back while I was nannying. When I told them what I do when I feel mad or sad their face lit up. They were shocked that I feel mad or sad sometimes too. I think this also helped with them listening to take a deep breath because it was based on my own experience. I wasn't asking them from a position of authority. I was asking them because I know that works for me and maybe it would work for them too.
8. I feel sad right now. Can I have a hug?
Again it's important to let kids know that you have big emotions too. It can be even more beneficial to tell them in the moment that you are feeling sad, so they can see it with their own eyes. Asking them for a hug is not only helping you out, but it's also teaching them ways that they can help people when they feel sad.
9. Sometimes I get a stomach ache too when I feel nervous.
Because this is just a straight fact for me. Anyone else?? The physical symptoms of anxiety can be mistaken for something else which can sometimes make it scary if you're a hypochondriac. Which is also a common trait of someone who has anxiety. Identifying physical symptoms to anxiety helps to better understand what is going on with your body and why you're feeling that way.
10. I get nervous going to the dentist too. But they help to keep my teeth healthy. What do you want to do after your dentist appointment?
This is not necessarily bribing them, but it's helping to distract them in the moment. Distraction is sometimes a helpful strategy with anxiety or any other feeling for that matter. It's also giving them something to look forward to after going to an appointment that they may be scared of.
These honest things we share with our kids will help break the stigma. They will be more comfortable to come to us and others about their own emotions. Sharing your emotions with others isn’t weak. It’s being honest. Being able to help someone else cope with their emotions, instead of dismissing them, is being compassionate. I don't know about you, but I want my kiddos to be honest and compassionate people!