As we approach the new year I have spent some time thinking about how I can provide more value to my readers, followers and the community at large. It is easy to get caught up in making sure your instagram feed looks aesthetically pleasing and doing the bare minimum just to feed the algorithm. However, being the perfectionist that I am (yes, something I am working on) the bare minimum doesn't bode well for me. I didn't start this brand to be aesthetically pleasing, I started it with a passion and a purpose.
Knowing that much of my brand is based on my experience, one that began as a young child, I spent time reflecting on what I feel would have been helpful for me to know as a child because unfortunately mental health is rarely talked about with children.
The concept of anxiety. The idea of anxiety is something that is rarely explained to children in my opinion. You don't learn it in school, there are no cartoons on the Disney channel that overtly talk about anxiety. Yet so so so many children experience anxiety to at least some degree. Little did I know at the time, my childhood was flooded with anxiety. Every kind of anxiety. I was chronically worried, nervous, skittish, and shy because I was experiencing anxiety every single day. The school nurse probably thought I was a pathological liar because of the number of stomach aches I had. I became compulsive with the littlest things in a desperate attempt to feel any level of control over my life but rarely was it successful. It wasn't until I was older and the concept of anxiety was explained to me that I actually began to understand what I was going through.
No one cares. To put it simply, no one cares what you are wearing or what your hair looks like so stop obsessing. If you can't remember what you wore last Tuesday how in the world is someone else supposed to remember? I was so self conscious about what people thought of me but the truth is everyone is too hung up inside their own head to even notice. Never during the time I would spend worrying about my hair or my outfit did I stop to think about what so and so looked like and I think that is the thing that needs to be pointed out to kids.
Transitions are hard but you adapt quickly. For many children, transitioning schools, houses, really anything that has become routine to them can be difficult. Naturally we get comfortable in our habitat and imposing change to our comfortable routine can be scary. There are so many unknowns to starting a new school or moving to a new neighborhood or even getting a new teacher that it can be extremely tough for kids. I was one of those kids that seriously struggled with transitions. Going from elementary school to middle school was unexplainably difficult for me. To say there were lots of tears would be an understatement. But guess what, I did it. Along with many other transitions throughout my life and every time I adapted to the new normal.
It’s okay to be sad. I feel like kids are rarely allowed to be sad. We always try to cheer them up because no one wants to see a kid sad but I think in doing so we send the message that sadness is a bad thing. Sadness is a part of life. In order to really appreciate the happy emotions we have to experience the not so happy emotions and learn to cope with them properly. As an adult I find it extremely difficult to sit with many of the not so happy emotions because I learned to avoid them as a child. Learning to sit with uncomfortable emotions is a valuable skill for all ages.
I think most people would agree that it is easier to learn something as a child than as an adult. Now imagine adding in the challenge of having to unlearn something you learned as a child and learn something new as an adult. That's where most of us are at. Why? Because all of our emotional development from our childhood carries into our adult life. For better or for worse. All of the emotions I learned to avoid as a child because they just weren't all that warm and cozy have manifested into not so healthy coping mechanisms that I have to now correct.
Which brings me to my next point. Why do we not teach our children these things? Why do we avoid talking about things like anxiety and depression with children? I personally don’t have a child so I can't say but I think a large contributor is just the lack of knowledge and awareness at the adult level. I can say with certainty, my parents were not withholding information from me as a child. They were never like “don’t mention anxiety in front of the children, their heads may explode.” They were just as unaware as I was at that point.
As humans we like answers and explanations. We naturally fear the unknown because the unknown can be potentially dangerous, so we seek to understand our surroundings. This is even visible in animals. If you have ever gotten a new dog or cat and you bring them home, they are going to immediately start scoping out the house. Yes, they are curious but they also want to understand their surroundings. Children, just like adults, want to understand things. Have you ever noticed how much a child asks “Why?” It's enough to drive you insane. The point being, children are capable of understanding these concepts. Maybe not to the degree and complexity of an adult but they are capable. If we can educate our children on topics of mental health and give them the tools to understand much earlier on, not only will they be better prepared for life as an adult, I also believe they will grow up to be more compassionate human beings.
I am curious to hear what would have helped you as a child? Share in the comments below!
Disclaimer: Please note, all information on The Cheeky Life is not intended as medical advice or as a substitute for professional care. The intention of this blog is to connect with the community and share my personal experiences with mental health, eating disorders, and life in general. All opinions are my own.