The Unmarked Road

Life On The Other Side Of Mental Illness

Are we helping or hindering our children’s mental health?

How many of us have gone through animal sounds or colours with our children? How many of us are trying to develop our little humans by teaching them correct names for different objects and actions?

How may of us are teaching our children the same things when it comes to their emotional and mental wellbeing?

Are we saying ‘I understand that you’re frustrated. What you are feeling is anger, and that is ok. Can you tell me what is making you angry about this situation?’

We fully accept that a toddler does not yet understand the difference between a lorry and a motorbike, yet expect them to know an array of different complex emotions and how to deal with them.

How many of our children are learning that their emotions don’t matter because the behaviour they are displaying is not acceptable?

How children many are learning to internalise their feelings instead of learning that all feelings are ok and a normal part of being human? Because surely we can’t expect children to handle adult emotions in an adult way? That’s what we’re supposed to teach them by helping them understand them.

With a growing number of children (and adults) with anxiety and depression, we need to look seriously at why.

Old disciplinary methods don’t really lend themselves to opening up the conversation with our children about what they are feeling and why.

If our children have a tantrum, we tell them to stop. As though they even have the brain development to be able to understand how.

If our children angrily lash out physically because they don’t understand the concept of yours and mine yet, we scold them for being naughty.

So we treat their responses to their emotions as we would adults (for whom tantrums and hitting are not acceptable) but then refuse to speak to them like adults by talking to them and trying to empathise with these huge emotional trips that they need our help navigating through.

Don’t get me wrong, there is a place for discipline. But if we try to see things from our children’s point of view, we will see that their actions are rarely because they are misbehaving just for the fun of it.

Usually they are needing attention or reconnection with their parents. In their undeveloped little minds, they don’t have the words or the ability to communicate with us in any other way!

They need understanding and help to ensure that as they grow into little adults, they have the tools available to navigate their own mental health effectively.

They won’t have them if they have to internalise every ‘negative’ emotion that they feel.


  1. Konstanze Allsopp

    January 2, 2018 at 5:38 pm

    It would be wonderful if all parents engage with their children as you are suggesting. Too few parents are aware of the fact that a newborn baby’s brain is capable of little more than the basic actions of breathing eating, crying and sleeping. The journey they go through for almost 20 years until their brains are fully developed is an incredibly complex and difficult one. If parents stop seeing themselves as the rulers and their children as their subjects but try to communicate with them on their level and understand that discipline and punishment are two very different things, if they take this journey with their children as companions helping each other instead of being afraid that their tiny toddlers are trying to manipulate them and “win”, if they come to realise that it is not about them and us fighting for supremacy, but rather us helping them learn and understand a very complex world, we would have far less teenagers and even children who already suffer mental health issues – and maybe we would be happier and less stressed parents as well.

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