What Not to Say to Kids Struggling with their Mental Health

What Not to Say to Kids Struggling with their Mental Health

It can be difficult to know what to say to children when they are going through a tough time.

As parents, we want to help our children in any way possible, and being there for them is a vital part of that.

However, sometimes we can say things that unintentionally make the situation worse.

Here are a few things that you should avoid saying to kids struggling with their mental health. 

Children Therapists in Colorado

Naomi Kettner, LPC, NCC

Naomi Kettner, LPC, NCC

Colorado Springs, Colorado
(719) 452-4374
Rodney Collins, LMFT

Rodney Collins, LMFT

Colorado Springs, Colorado
(719) 345-2424
Margot Bean, LCSW

Margot Bean, LCSW

Colorado Springs, Colorado
(719) 345-2424
Jenifer Seas, LCSW

Jenifer Seas, LCSW

Colorado Springs, Colorado
(719) 452-4374
Hailey Gloden, MA, LPC, NCC

Hailey Gloden, MA, LPC, NCC

Colorado Springs, Colorado
(719) 602-1342

"It's Just a Phase" 

When children are going through something difficult, it's normal for adults to want to assure them that everything will eventually get better.

However, telling them that what they are feeling is just a phase can make them feel like their feelings are invalid. It's important to validate your child's feelings and let them know that it's okay to feel the way they do. 

"Don't Worry, Be Happy"

This is another well-meaning phrase that can unintentionally make the situation worse. Telling children not to worry implies that their worries are unfounded and not worth paying attention to.

This can make children feel like their concerns are not valid and that they should just try to push them aside.

Instead of telling your child not to worry, try asking them what is worrying them and see if there is anything you can do to help. 

"It Could Be Worse" 

While it's important to perspective, this phrase is often counterproductive when talking to children about their problems.

When kids hear this, they may start comparing their own problems to those of others who are struggling with more serious issues.

This can make them feel like their own problems are not important or that they should just be grateful for what they have. Instead of trying to downplay their problems, encourage your child to express how they're feeling and offer your support. 

"It's All in Your Head"

One of the most damaging things you can say to someone struggling with their mental health is that their illness is imaginary or that they're just making it up.

Not only is this statement patently untrue, but it also delegitimizes the very real pain and suffering that person is going through.

Mental illness is a very real thing, and telling someone that their struggles are imaginary is incredibly hurtful and dismissive.

"Have You Tried Thinking Positively?"

Another way of approaching the issue that dismisses the reality of mental illness is to tell sufferers that they just need to think more positively.

This line of thinking ignores the fact that mental illness is a medical condition that requires professional treatment, not a matter of simply changing one's outlook on life.

In addition, this statement places the blame squarely on the shoulders of the sufferer, implying that their illness is somehow their own fault.

Positive thinking will not cure mental illness, and nobody deserves to be made to feel like their struggles are their own doing. 

"I Know How You Feel"

It can be tempting to try and empathize with someone by telling them that you understand what they're going through.

However, unless you yourself have struggled with the same condition, it's impossible to truly know how they feel.

Even if you have experienced something similar, such as anxiety or depression, every individual experiences mental illness in their own unique way.

It's important to respect your child's experience and refrain from trying to compare it to your own. 

"It's Not That Bad" 

When our kids are confiding in us about their struggles, it can be tempting to downplay what they're going through.

We might think that we're protecting them from feeling like their problems are bigger than they actually are.

However, invalidating their feelings can make them feel like we don't understand what they're going through. It's important that we listen to our kids and let them know that we see and understand their pain. 

"Just Snap Out of It" 

Mental illness is not something that people can simply snap out of.

Telling our kids to just get over it or pushing them to hurry up and recover will only make them feel worse.

Recovery from mental illness takes time and patience. The best thing we can do for our kids is to be there for them and offer support throughout their journey. 

"I Went Through the Same Thing When I Was Your Age" 

Even if we did go through something similar when we were younger, every experience is unique.

Comparing our experiences to our children's can make them feel like we don't understand what they're going through.

We must listen to our kids and hear their experiences without trying to compare them to our own. 

"Stop Being so Lazy/Ungrateful/Stupid" 

Name-calling is never acceptable, but it can be especially harmful when directed at someone who is struggling with their mental health.

Words like these can damage our relationship with our children and make it harder for them to open up to us about their struggles.

No matter how frustrated we might be, it's important that we always speak kindly and respectfully to our kids—even when they're driving us crazy! 


Finding the right words to say when children are going through a tough time can be difficult.

Sometimes, the best thing you can do is just be there for them and offer your support.

Avoid saying things that might unintentionally make the situation worse and try to focus on helping your child in any way you can.

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March 2nd, 2024

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