For Dads: A Guide to Children’s Mental Health

For many generations, men were not encouraged to show their feelings and talk about them. They were brought up with the words “just man up,” “boys don’t cry,” and similar ones that we all know so well. Nowadays, many of these men begin to realize they need to look after themselves and take mental health more seriously than the previous generations did. But, what if men were encouraged to look within themselves back in their teen years or even before that? There’s not much you can do about the past, but a lot can be done for the future — our children.

For Dads: A Guide to Children's Mental Health
Mental Health Before Manliness

The sad truth is that many men have been brought up by fathers who had little to no mental health support themselves, which made things difficult for many young boys and grown, adult men. Many would not be able to recognize, show, and talk about their emotions because, over the years, they have been told to “man up” multiple times. Sometimes, even subtler comments may lead a young child to capsulate their feeling and just ignore mental health altogether at a very early age.

But, the thing is, if we want to raise healthy and happy children, we shouldn’t tell boys not to cry. Boys do feel, do get upset, and they certainly do cry. And they most certainly should! This is why it’s so important to create a safe space for your children to talk about their feelings and show them that it’s okay to be upset and talk about it. If you’re doing that, you’re already on the right track to raising men who will recognize the importance of mental health and seek support when they need it without feeling embarrassed.

“I Won’t Talk About it With You, Dad”

It’s not nice to hear these words but your child has the right to refuse to share personal stuff with you. Don’t get upset or angry if this happens but try a different approach. As this usually becomes an issue when the child gets a bit older, you can try sending them a link to a platform or another safe space where they can find great mental health and wellbeing advice that’s appropriate for their age. Once they’re ready to talk or find out it’s better to seek the help of professionals, they may come back to you and talk. If they feel like it’s time to speak with an expert, be supportive and see if they would like to go with you, or maybe they would prefer to do that with your partner.

Boy teenager at a psychologist at the office's
Things a Dad Should Never Say

There are many things that you could say to your child when they’re struggling mentally. They would be specific to your family dynamic, the situation, and the character of your child. It’s important to choose the right words and be careful if they have come to you with their mental health struggles. With that said, be sure to never use the following phrases:

  • Just cheer up!
  • Deal with it!
  • Suck it up and get on with it!
  • Pull yourself together!
  • Just stop feeling like that!
  • Why can’t you be normal?

By saying any of these, you absolutely won’t achieve your goal. You can only worsen the way your child feels and no dad would like to see their child struggling, right? Being open and honest about the way you feel doesn’t make you less of a man, always remember that.