Parenting expert Jane Evans says she is horrified by the message of this year’s Children Mental Health Week campaign - #FindYourBrave
The mum from Wiltshire who is known internationally for her work with parents and children says the tagline is ‘horrifying’ and she immediately started tweeting to express her concerns and directly challenged the #FindYourBrave campaign created by the organisation behind it, Place2Be.
“This ‘theme’ and the message it gives out is wrong on so many levels for children, and their parents as it does nothing to support mental health. It’s such an out-dated assumption, in my view, that children can be ‘brave’ enough to speak out or speak up about something that’s troubling them,” Jane said.
“For many children ‘being brave’ is just not possible. They cannot even express their feelings, as they simply don’t know how to.
“Being able to recognise, and put into words how we feel is something we gradually learn in childhood, if it’s part of daily life. Sadly, 21st century living is making this less and less likely to happen as parents and educators are often stressed to the max, distracted by screens, and a range of external pressures to perform and achieve. Then there are children who have to keep their feelings hidden because they are too busy surviving a difficult home life.
“So the child who cannot #FindYourBrave – is that child going to think they are a coward? This whole #FindYourBrave theme plays into the old-fashioned rhetoric of ‘stiff upper lip’, ‘cheer up’, ‘buck up’ mentality of the past.”
Jane contacted the charity Place2Be, which is supported by the Duchess of Cambridge, over the message which she claims is dangerous. They said in a tweeted response:
“This is absolutely not our intention. The aim is to encourage conversations with children about how bravery is not about holding it all in, the importance of talking about feelings and asking for help. Children's wellbeing is our top priority.”
For Jane, parents and guardians can help their children by creating an environment where children feel emotionally and mentally safe to say and feel whatever they need to. By doing this, over time, children will grow up being able to express what they are feeling. Jane feels the headline of #FindYourBrave does not support this.
“A much better message which is aligned to the current science around children’s development is #AllFeelingsMatter – everyone needs to recognise that often children are emotionally and mentally overwhelmed, because their parents are so absent from their lives. This can be put down to both parents having to work to pay the bills, the amount of time everyone spends on screens and the busy lives we lead.
“Just slow things down in life, do things and share things with your children using emotions. Calm yourself down regularly so you can truly listen to your children. They badly need us to be in an emotional space with them. Not one where we are advising them, or going through a checklist of 'did you remember to...'
“These emotional connections help them feel they are loved and cherished whatever they are feeling right now. There’s no need for them to pretend to be brave.
“If we truly care about the mental health of children we will move away from this children need to 'be resilient, brave' attitude. Resilience isn’t built by just telling a child ‘to find their brave’.
“It IS built by the quality of emotional connection they get to experience in childhood. If we really value children's mental health we will stop just focussing on things that make life easier for the adults and on churning out the next ‘work force!' Then children's mental health will have a real chance.”