Teach Children About Mental Health

Jason Weiland

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We are expecting so much from our children. We pass on a broken planet and hope they do something about the damage we’ve done. We force them to make sense of this mess we made because we want to be happy and fulfilled in our golden years.

We are asking for miracles.

But how can we expect them to lead us to a safe place if they are battling the same inner demons we do? We didn’t do anything to make the world a better place because we lived with heads full of garbage and vitriol. We couldn’t see eye-to-eye with anyone else because we were so privileged and entitled.

How do we expect them to do any different if we can’t teach them how to control their thoughts and minds, learn how to deal with emotion, and interact with each other on a deeper level?

We need to start teaching our kids about mental health and emotional intelligence.

Poor Mental Health is a Huge Issue

One of the problematic issues we face today is the prevalence of mental illness in our society. If you look at the numbers, we face a monumental challenge. It’s only getting worse every year. And it’s not a uniquely American, European, or Asian problem, but a matter for everyone worldwide.

The issue of so many people dealing with poor mental health will not go away by itself. Wishing it away or praying to a higher power are unlikely to be the key to changing anything. We need a concerted effort to ensure that future generations learn how to take care of their minds and in a way that allows them to make good decisions.

We need our children to have emotional intelligence. They need to know how to interact with others in our society to ensure their minds stay healthy. Emotional intelligence is the capacity to identify and manage ones’ emotions and the feelings of other people. Our generation never learned to shape our minds and control our emotions in a way that made an impact on this world.

Why It’s Important For Our Children

As we said before, we are expecting our children to turn the world around. The human race is on the brink of destruction. It doesn’t matter how much we deny it; we’re all going to die if we don’t do something about the problem we created.

Most of society’s issues and problems are never solved. We are so privileged and entitled that we can’t come together as a people and do the things needed to heal our civilization and planet. We argue and pout because we want things to be the way we think they should be. We stubbornly hold on to toxic capitalism even though it is destroying the planet we need to survive.

We can even get along with our fellow humans long enough to do what we need to do to stay alive.

Our kids need to prepare for the future ahead in a different way than we did, and part of that is dealing with themselves and others’ feelings and emotions.

The only thing I knew about my emotions and mental illness growing up was that if you were different, they called you crazy and put you in the creepy state hospital on the hill. I didn’t know that the voices I heard in my head were hallucinations and could be a symptom of something bigger. I didn’t understand why I was sad and nervous all the time.

All I knew was that I was different, and what I knew about being different was it was bad and you would be an outcast if you didn’t shape up. Kids who were different were the target of bullies, and I had enough problem with that.

No one talked positively about mental health, not even in the religions to which we belonged. Everyone we knew would have shunned many of us with mental issues if they knew what we were experiencing. They would say we are under the influence of demons, and everything, from what we watched on TV to the music we listened to, would be to blame for our weakness.

The people who should have been doing something to help would ignore the root of the problem. They would not have helped because of the hysteria and stigma associated with mental illness.

Do You Think It’s Any Different Now?

Sure, we talk about poor mental health and emotions more often nowadays. Kids are learning that it’s okay to admit that they feel depressed or anxious in social situations. Kids with eating disorders and OCD get help more often, and people are showing understanding.

Kids are starting to understand that we need to address systematic racism and climate change with everyone else’s help in society. If we can’t learn to get along and discuss the issues intelligently, we are lost.

But we need to go further. Every child needs to learn about their feelings and emotions and how to deal with them. They need to understand that it’s healthy to feel emotion, both good and bad. They need to understand which ones are toxic and which emotions they should ask for help with.

They need to understand that others also have feelings and emotions, and we need to be aware and show empathy.

Kids need to understand how to deal with each other on a deeper level. They need to learn to interact with people who are different and show understanding.

We must teach them to exist with one another.

How Do We Teach Kids Emotional Intelligence?

“Emotional intelligence can be said to cover five main areas: self-awareness, emotional control, self-motivation, empathy, and relationship skills. It is, of course, important for good communication with others — and is therefore a gateway to better learning, friendships, academic success, and employment. Skills such as these developed in our formative years at school often provide the foundation for future habits later on in life.” — The Guardian

We can teach emotional intelligence to every child if we focus on a few things. Instead of showing them every nuance, we teach them the keys and allow them to absorb the others independently. What they don’t learn from a book, they can learn through genuine interaction.

So, what do kids need to learn?

  • Active listening — Listening involves sincerely following a conversation in progress and replying to others using their own body language. Then they need to show that they’ve understood by repeating back key messages they received. How many people really listen? Aren’t most people automatically trying to form a response of their own? Listening shows that you care about the person you are having a conversation with.
  • Children need to increase their “feelings” vocabulary — They need to learn all emotions, both good and bad, and recognize which ones could be toxic to themselves and others.
  • Self-awareness — Children need to learn how others perceive them. They need to know how not to let an inflated ego or self-image twist their behavior and social exchanges. They need to learn how to judge themselves so they don’t over or under-estimate their abilities.
  • Showing empathy — Empathy is a crucial thing missing from our daily interactions but essential for our kids to learn. Empathy is taking the perspective of another while being non-judgemental. How many of our problems today could we solve if we all showed a bit more compassion?
  • Self-regulation — We need to teach our children how to control both emotions and impulses. They need to learn positive self-talk and how not to fall victim to their sensitivities. They need to know how to be thoughtful before reacting and how not to allow their feelings to get in the way of important decisions.

These keys are essential. We need to teach them to children and allow them to practice by interacting in a safe environment. We can no longer expect that all children will learn these keys from their parents and family.

The Future is in Jeopardy

Teaching our future generations about mental health and emotional intelligence are some of the most critical tasks we have ahead of us. If we want our children to fix the problems we created, we have to show them how to deal with their own emotions and feelings. They need to know how to interact successfully with others.

As much as some people want to deny it, our future is in question. We need to be doing everything we can to make sure our children have the tools they need to fix what we damaged.

Can you think of something more important?

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Writer and advocate interested in mental health, health, family, culture, creativity, and success.

Los Angeles, CA
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