Updated: Jul 6, 2020
As much as I have grown to love empowering women nothing could ever replace my love for children's mental health. I have always loved children and been working with children since I started babysitting at age 12 then going to work in daycares and in summer programs at age 15. I just see such a problem with the way that children are viewed as these little creatures that don't have thoughts or feelings to be valued by adults. I actually chose social work as a major for this very reason...to advocate for children's mental health...teaching them to find their voice and being their voice until that happens.
We talk about adult mental health but what can we do for young people now so that it is not so much of a struggle for them later?
Let's jump right in!
1. Teach them how to make choices
I hear a lot of adults (especially in the Black community 😫) say that children do not have opinions or a right to make choices and it makes me cringe so much! The number one thing to remember in this post is that children grow up to be adults! Each one of these tips will aid them in growing to be healthy, well-rounded adults.
This step can begin as young as one or two years old. A two year old doesn't really understand the concept of needing to wear a sweater opposed to a tank top in the winter, right? However, she can pick between the pink sweater and the blue one. As they get older allow them more choices. This is so empowering for a child, also it prevents them from growing up like me and my sisters where making decisions literally causes anxiety.
Always being afraid of making the wrong choice is crippling, but learning that it is okay to make a choice and maybe learn later that another choice would have been better is life changing!
2. Talk through reasoning
How often as a child were you given the explanation, "because I said so". And how many times as an adult do you do things in a certain way just because "that's the way we've always done it"? What is that teaching them?!
I believe in teachable moments. Having taught and counseled children in various arenas I truly understand how frustrating it can be sometimes, however, you have to be able to take yourself out of your own frustration and think about how your answer can impact them later. Maybe you come back later with a different answer but they deserve to learn reasoning. I've been told that as a child I didn't really take too kindly to "because I said so" and I believe that because I am still the same way! I am always questioning why things are the way they are, not out of rebellion but out of wanting to do things the most efficient way possible with the least amount of work (my time is valuable). Sometimes it results in me learning that this is the best way to do it or that it has to be done this way because of other conditions, and sometimes the other person is able to adopt my way. This is learned though.
3. Listen to them!
I was going to save this for last but I need you to get this!
You can say that young people do not have opinions all you want but that doesn't make it true.