When we create safe spaces for our children to discuss their feelings, we’re giving them a great gift.
In the precious early years we have with our children, there’s so much focus on helping them meet physical and educational milestones. But while it’s not as clear-cut as teaching your kid to ride a bike or spell his name, just as important is how we foster our children’s “emotional strength,” says Kate Middleton.
Speaking alongside husband Prince William, brother-in-law Prince Harry and future sister-in-law Meghan Markle at the Royal Foundation Forum in London this week, Middleton explained how her work with mental health campaigns has reinforced what a significant role parents play in setting their children up for a lifetime of wellness.
“You can't help but reflect on your own life,” Middleton says. “It's definitely had an impact on how I look at how I mother, how we work as a family and how we hope to bring up our children.”
The Royal Foundation Forum is intended to shine a light on the charitable work the royal family does throughout the year—and Middleton is certainly involved in childhood wellness programs.
"If some of this knowledge and some of the facts and figures that I’ve learned along the way could be passed on to the general public in an awareness campaign or something like that, I think it could be hugely beneficial to all mothers and parents out there,” Middleton adds.
In another public service announcement in February, Middleton said childhood is a time to “explore our personalities, discover our potential that lies within us and learn how we be ourselves.”
Unfortunately, she said some children have more resources than others, which is why she supports programs that bring adults together to help give children “the emotional strength they need to face their futures and thrive.”
Due in large part to vocal support from people like Middleton, there seems to be an increasing amount of awareness on the importance of fostering mental welfare among children. Just this week, the American Academy of Pediatrics released its first guideline update in 10 years to include recommendations for addressing mental health concerns among teens.
“We would like to see teens fill out a depression screening tool as a routine part of their regular wellness visit,” says Amy Cheung, MD, a lead author of the new guidelines. “Parents should be comfortable offering any of their own observations, questions or concerns, which will help the physician get a well-rounded picture of the patient’s health.”
Studies show that early intervention when your child is experiencing depression or anxiety can significantly improve their long-term outcomes. The new AAP guidelines aim to act on that by providing treatment plans for families, offering education and screening tools and developing safety plans.
As Middleton’s example also shows, parents are in the unique position to apply these learnings within our families—and when we create safe spaces for our children to discuss their feelings, we’re giving them a great gift.