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Mental health check-in with Shayla & Burgess

It is time for a paradigm shift. We could be causing more harm to our children than we realize. 

This article may not be for everyone, and it may challenge some of the thinking patterns that have become staples in our personal lives. 

Our thinking patterns, the way we behave and how we parent, has a direct link to the way we grew up. Even subtle phrases have the potential to create and cause unintentional harm. The phrases that we use have been embedded in us in such a way that we willingly and passionately share these phrases as motivational pieces to encourage and provide a drive for our children. It can be noted that most phrases used by parents have an intent for “teaching a lesson” or giving insight of “how good they have it” compared to our own childhood experiences. Even looking back on my own childhood, I can remember my father sharing stories of how he had to walk in snow that was “yay high” along with the lengthy distance he had to travel just to make it to school on time. However, we want to note how certain phrases shared with children at specific points within their life span may not be beneficial. 

1. “Make sure you eat all your food. There are starving children in Africa”

Toddler years are times that kids are picky and extremely selective. But there is a reason as to why this happens (for the collective youth, not so much on an individual level). During this stage, ages 3-5 years old, children have a good grasp of their environment, meaning they are fundamentally aware of places and settings that they visit often. They are trying to develop assertiveness. Being able to exhibit control and power in places they feel comfortable can lead a child to feeling a sense of purpose. When their decision making is met with disapproval and resistance from adults, an unfavorable outcome can lead the child to feeling a sense of guilt and inadequacy.  

2. “I’ll give you something to cry about.” 

Antagonizing words that can make a child feel threatened can lead to complications within personal relationships later in life. During young adulthood ages, 19-40, a key existential question that is to be answered is “Am I loved and wanted?” 

If, when growing up, there was a consistent threat of expressing oneself through emotions and even furthermore not having the space to be able to share feelings, it can impact the child’s interpersonal skills and self perception. There is a connection between having security as a child and showing healthy dynamics in intimate relationships, versus manifesting behaviors through the lens of fear and doubt with their partners due to an inability to be heard and understood during a time where it is hard for a child to articulate big emotions. 

3. “Are you going to jump off of a bridge if everyone else is doing it?”

I think we all can agree that we want our children to be independent thinkers and trailblazers. Yet, here is the thing: There is a switch that happens during adolescence. This switch is that our peer group, our friends, and society has a huge weight on impact with youth. And no, even a parent’s strongest will cannot change this universal observation. To be honest, if jumping off that bridge meant an opportunity to finally find a fit and a role within a group in a social setting, there is, in fact, a high percentage that they would very well jump. 

Adolescence is called role identity versus role confusion. In this stage, thoughts of the youth questioning who they are and where they are going continues even into young adulthood. Minimizing something they cannot control does not appear to benefit their mental health. 

There are alternatives to get your point, moral, and/or lesson across. Being clear and transparent takes away the innuendos and vague barriers towards communication. You are a catalyst in sharing insight and demonstrating for your child how to deal with their emotions. Rather than, “I will give you something to cry about,” share how you are feeling, utilize “I” statements to prevent guilt and express a desired approach you would like for them to try, not because you need control, but because children need help in managing their emotions. 

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