I’m a psychologist – these are the five phrases you should never say to your child
Telling upset children not to cry, that they’re okay and there’s nothing to be afraid of may seem like words of reassurance to parents.
But now, a psychologist has revealed that such phrases may actually be doing more harm than good to youngsters.
As well as leaving kids feeling invalidated, the aforementioned comments can make them repress their emotions and not open up in the future.
That is according to Dr Amanda Gummer, who has told MailOnline the five phrases parents should not say.
How a parent manages and responds to a child’s emotion can drastically affect how they manage this in the future (stock image)
‘Stop crying’ or ‘don’t cry’
It can be tempting to plead with a child for them to stop crying.
However, it can lead youngsters to repress their feelings, according to Dr Gummer, founder of children’s industry consultancy firm FUNdamentally Children.
She said: ‘It’s important for children to express their emotions and crying can be a natural and healthy way to do so.
‘Telling a child to stop or not to cry may make them feel ashamed or like their emotions are not valid.’
Parents should tell upset children that they understand how they feel, according to the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.
It also recommends using a book or drawing their attention to something else if a child is crying as part of a tantrum.
How parents should handle their child’s stress, according to a psychologist
Dr Amanda Gummer, a psychologist from Hertfordshire, has revealed to MailOnline how parents can handle their children’s stress.
Create a safe and supportive environment: Children need to feel safe and supported to cope with stress.
Teach relaxation techniques: Learning relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing or meditation, can help children calm their minds and bodies when they’re feeling stressed.
Encourage physical activity: Regular physical activity can help reduce stress and improve mood – and can lead by example! Finding fun activities to do together as a family can really help.
Develop good sleep habits: Children need adequate sleep to function well and manage stress. Parents can encourage healthy sleep habits by establishing a consistent bedtime routine and creating a calm and comfortable sleeping environment.
Promote positive self-talk: Encouraging children to use positive self-talk can help them build resilience and cope with stress.
‘It is not a big deal’ or ‘you’re fine’
Parents may think they are soothing their child by telling them that they are fine, or that they are upset over nothing.
But Dr Gummer, who also founded The Good Play Guide, which offers expert reviews on toys and advice on how to play with children, said it is essential to not downgrade their emotions.
Rather than making them feel better, these phrases actually risk making a child believe that their feelings aren’t important, she said.
She added: ‘Even if the situation seems minor to an adult, it may be a big deal to a child.
‘Minimising their feelings can make them feel dismissed or invalidated.’
Instead, parents should reassure their child with comments such as ‘I’m here for you’ or ‘I can see that you’re upset, do you want to talk about it?’, Dr Gummer said.
‘I told you so’ or ‘you should have known better’
Phrases that criticise children for making a mistake is unhelpful, Dr Gummer said.
Youngsters are curious and blaming them for a problem may see them avoid turning to their parents for help in the future.
She said: ‘Blaming or shaming a child for their distress can make them feel worse and may discourage them from seeking help or opening up in the future.’
Experts have also warned that, even if parents believe these phrases help teach their child a lesson, it actually puts their defences up.
As a result, youngsters are less likely to learn from the experience.
‘Don’t be scared’ or ‘there’s nothing to be afraid of’
Monsters in the closet, barking dogs and loud thunder are all common fears among children.
And telling them not to be scared or afraid may seem like comforting advice.
But, in fact, it glosses over the root of a child’s feelings.
Dr Gummer said: ‘Dismissing a child’s fears may make them feel alone and unsupported. Instead, validate their feelings and offer reassurance and support.’
US-based charity the Child Mind Institute recommends taking a child’s fears seriously, asking why something seems scary and setting goals to overcome them.
Psychologist Dr Amanda Gummer has revealed to MailOnline what phrases should avoid saying to your children
‘Just cheer up’ or ‘be happy’
Telling a child to ‘cheer up’ or ‘be happy’ when they are upset may seem like practical advice.
But may actually cause them to feel that it’s not okay to feel sad, Dr Gunner warned.
Whether a pet or loved one has died, or a friend has moved away, children should be told that it is okay to feel sad, experts say.
Dr Gunner said: ‘It’s not always easy to simply “cheer up” when you’re feeling down or upset.
‘This can make a child feel like their feelings are not valid or that they’re not allowed to feel sad or upset.’