It’s a phrase we’ve all heard before: “It’s just a phase”. Parents, teachers, and guardians have often used this phrase to describe a child’s behavior or interests, in the hopes of reassuring them that whatever they are experiencing will pass eventually. But while this phrase may seem like a relatively harmless way to comfort a child, it can have a lasting and damaging effect on their development, both psychologically and emotionally.
To start, let’s look at what “It’s just a phase” can mean to a child. On the surface, this may seem like an innocent expression of reassurance. We tell them that whatever they are going through is only temporary, and that they will soon outgrow it. But when we use this phrase, we are dismissing the child’s feelings and minimizing their experience. We are implying that whatever they are going through is not important enough to take seriously, and that they should simply wait until it passes.
This is particularly problematic when it comes to issues of mental health and wellbeing. If we tell a child that their anxiety or depression is just a phase, we are suggesting that their emotions are not valid or worth taking seriously. This can lead to feelings of invalidation, which can have a lasting impact on the child’s psychological development. Furthermore, it can lead to feelings of shame and self-doubt, as the child may start to question if their emotions are even real.
Moreover, when we tell children that their feelings and experiences are merely “phases”, we are sending the message that these feelings are abnormal and that any deviation from the norm should be seen as something to be ashamed of. This can lead to feelings of isolation and a lack of belonging, as the child may feel like they are the only one going through something that is not socially acceptable.
Finally, when we tell a child that “It’s just a phase”, we are robbing them of the opportunity to explore and express their emotions in a healthy way. We are denying them the chance to learn how to process their emotions and develop coping mechanisms that can be used throughout their life. By minimizing their experiences, we are limiting their emotional growth and preventing them from developing a strong sense of self-esteem and resilience.
The fact is, the phrase “It’s just a phase” is a dismissive way of responding to a child’s emotions and experiences. Instead of telling them that their feelings are invalid or that they should wait until it passes, we should give them the opportunity to explore and express themselves in a safe and nurturing environment. We should provide them with the tools to manage their emotions and build their self-confidence. And most importantly, we should never forget that each and every child is unique, and their feelings are just as valid as any other.