Protect Your Child’s Mental Health With Your Words
The way we treat our children teaches them about their worth and demonstrates to them what they should accept from others. We can tell and lecture to them till we are blue in the face, but it is what they experience from us and how we treat them day to day which is what feeds into their subconscious and forms their beliefs about themselves and the world around them. Let’s get straight into 9 Phrases To Protect Your Child’s Mental Health. Read till the end for a bonus tip.
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Phrases to protect your child’s mental health
- I used to feel the same when I was a child/I would feel the same if I was your age
Have you ever noticed how your child loves to hear stories of when you were a child just like them? Just as we love it when we have other adults to relate to, children love it when we can relate to them as children. As children grow, they become more and more influenced by their friends, but I assure you, they still want your guidance, they still want to know that you’ve been there too, and that they are not alone in their journey and emotions. This helps them to feel connected, and connection is a protector of mental wellbeing.
2. I know
This may sound really simple but hear me out. The next time your child is frantically explaining to you something that has bothered them or is telling you about how much they want something they can’t have. Instead of getting into explaining and reasoning, just a simple, but empathetic “I know” can make your child feel like you are not against them, while also holding the essential boundaries. We don’t have to give in, they don’t even really want us to give in because children feel safe when we hold strong boundaries, what they do need still is to feel heard, and to feel connected to us.
3. Repeat what they say “you’re upset because…” so they feel like you listen to them
You might be truly listening to your child when they are expressing themselves, and you might fully understand their perspective. But be sure to verbalise this clearly and calmly to them. “You’re upset because you felt left out at the party” emotions are there to be understood and processed. They won’t go away if we deny them or ignore them. This is part of our job to teach our children how to identify their emotions and to deal with them. They also then can clearly understand that we are listening to them and know that how they feel inside is valid.
4. That’s a lot for you to deal with
When we look back at childhood compared to adulthood, with our adult glasses on- it can look like childhood is easy, and so it can be tempting to tell our children that what they are experiencing, in the grand scheme of things isn’t that bad. However, this is missing the point and it isn’t that helpful. Our children are practicing the skills of handling life’s ups and downs, in age-appropriate manageable ways. For them, it is a big deal. And the way we respond to them and the way we model how we face challenges will equip them for future challenges. If we shrug it off, we could make them believe that they aren’t capable of dealing with things that feel like a big deal. We want to validate their experience and we want to give them the confidence to face challenges, this is a way to protect our child’s mental health.
If your child struggles to talk about their feelings, I suggest using a parent-child communication book like this one here. This can be passed between you both in your own time. Keep it somewhere safe where your child can access it whenever they need to.
5. We can figure this out together
If your child comes to you with a problem, know that this is a really good sign. One of the most helpful techniques for dealing with life’s stresses is reaching out to people we trust for support. Tell your child that you are a team with them and that you can work this out together. Sometimes your child just needs to feel like they have your support and you’ll find you can step back while they figure it out. Other times you may just need to give a little prompting, and occasionally you will need to fully advocate for your child. All of this is showing your child their value, and they will learn how to handle life from watching you be the strong parent that you are, and from experiencing your support.
6. I’m proud of you for sharing this
Whatever your child tells you, try to soften your voice and body language. No matter what it is, they are safer for feeling like they can tell you. If you act angry at your child for telling you something, this won’t necessarily stop your child from doing it again, but it will stop them from telling you. They are much more likely to be receptive to your guidance and instructions if they don’t fear your reaction. My son really struggles with friendship dramas, It really affects his emotional health if his group of friends is arguing. I can always tell because his behaviour at home changes. We were going through a particular time when his behaviour at home was becoming snappy and negative. I eventually found out he was having a lot of arguments with a boy in his class and he was in tears explaining it to me when it finally came out. Instantly after telling me, his whole emotional state changed and he was back to being my sweet happy boy. When he came home the day after our chat, he told me that he probably would have been unhappy again if he wasn’t able to take my advice about how to handle the situation. When children tell us things, we need to show them that we are happy they’ve told us. Because as I learned the hard way with my son, they can have all sorts going on that we just don’t know about.
7. How you feel is important, and I know you can think of a better way to …
Sometimes we need to address the way our children have behaved, as adults we don’t always get it right, and neither do our children. We can acknowledge the way they feel, and also ask them questions to help them reflect on how they behaved. Let them answer how they think they could have acted instead. This is teaching them self-awareness. You can ask “what happens in your body when you feel angry?” Help them notice their bodily sensations and different emotions. This helps them separate their emotions from their identity so that they know they aren’t an angry child, but a child who is experiencing normal emotion. Then when they are calm, you can ask them what they think would be a better thing to do or say next time. Prompting your child to take charge of their own body and mind will build their confidence and trust in themselves. This is how we learn emotional intelligence. By helping our children notice their emotions, instead of reacting impulsively, they’ll begin to master the skill of regulating and choosing the action for the best outcome. Emotional intelligence is all about having compassion as well as choosing the best actions.
8. I love ……… about you
Think about what makes your child who they are. Are they sensitive and kind? Are they confident and adventurous? Are they thoughtful and creative? Notice these unique characteristics of your child and nurture them. When they are talking about something they love, show an interest and ask questions. We want our children to become masters of who they are, not masks of who they were expected to be. Loving our children for exactly who they are, will protect them from feeling like they need to fit in to be accepted and loved, they will be more likely to gravitate towards people in life who are healthy and positive to be around because that is what will feel normal to them.
9. I care about you too much to argue
If you find yourself stuck in an argument with your child, this one simple sentence can stop it before it ends up leaving you drained and with no solution. It respectfully puts an end to the argument without creating disconnection. You can return to the discussion later when you both feel calm. Listening to our children’s point of view is a healthy way to model respect, but this simple sentence shows that it’s not healthy to keep arguing if it’s getting out of hand and it models that when you care about someone, you can treat them with kindness even if you don’t agree on something. We want to model healthy communication skills so our children can develop healthy relationships with others throughout their lives, and know that it’s ok to disagree.
Speak to your child about why people might behave the way they do. This helps them to learn empathy and makes it less likely that they’ll internalise other people’s negative actions. For example, if a child says something unkind to your child, explain that sometimes people act bad when they feel bad inside and that it is nothing to do with who your child is as a person.
Do you have any phrases which help your child’s mental health? I’d love to hear them in the comments! There is nothing that warms my heart more than connecting with other compassionate parents.