Essential Talks of Life

This page is a summary of the Essential Talks of Life (Livsviktiga snack) initiative. While this text is intended for people with children between the ages of 9 and 12, it can be helpful to anyone who has a close relationship with a child. It is about the importance of teaching children to express their feelings. Research shows that children who learn to talk about their feelings are better protected against everything from school absence and substance abuse to depression and even suicide later in life. In this text, you will find tips, facts and practical exercises on how to get started.

The text on this page is also available for download as a PDF.

pdf ikon

The text on this page is also available for download as a PDF.

A good way to start is by watching this short film!

The Bad News First

Let’s start with the bad news. Every year, more than 5,000 children and young people try to take their own lives. This results in three suicide deaths a week. In fact, suicide is the number one cause of death in Sweden among young people between the ages of 15 and 24. Teens are actually more likely to hurt themselves than be hurt by others. Alcohol, drugs, self-harm and sex are some examples of ways they may do this.

Now the Good News

Research shows very clearly that the ability to express how you feel, together with a good relationship with a close adult, is one of the most important protective factors in life. If a child has this, and also gets to practise problem-solving with an adult, it actually reduces the risk not only of suicide and depression, but also of the child turning to crime or substance abuse when they get older. And by teaching your child to put feelings into words, you’ll be doing more than just giving them one of the best protections in life – you will hopefully also develop a better relationship and have more fun together.

Body and brain in a state of change

As children begin their journey through adolescence, their bodies and brains change, as do the demands from the world around them. Many begin to brood more and more, and doubts about their own abilities may arise. Your child’s mood can go up and down erratically, and friends take on a more important role in their life. All of these changes are normal, but as a parent it can be hard to keep up. Here you can read more about what happens in the body and brain during this period, and what you can do to support your child (in Swedish).

How To Do It

Think about how often we try to teach our children to be nice to their friends, how to brush their teeth or how to safely cross the street. We should practise talking about feelings just as often. Statistics show, for example, that suicide is seven times more common than fatal traffic accidents.

But learning to talk about feelings can take time for both children and adults, so a good tip is to do it a little every day. Some children are keen to talk at bedtime, others while having a bath or choosing their clothes in the morning. Think about when your child’s talk time tends to be and seize the moments that arise in daily life.

And don’t forget to listen! When children talk about their problems, we adults often want to offer explanations and suggestions. Don’t! Instead, let your child say their piece. By actively listening to your child, you show them that what they tell you is important, and it gives them a chance to find their own solutions to the problem.

Exercises

In addition to patience and timing, it can help to have practical exercises to get the conversation started.
The Conversation Starter and The Emoji Test are two fun everyday exercises that you and your child can do together.

The Conversation Starter

Children between the ages of 9 and 12 are usually perfectly happy to do things with their parents, like playing games. Write one question on each piece of paper (or make up your own), put them in a bowl, and then take turns drawing one at a time.

If you want to do it in a more playful way, try this interactive tool. Click it and see what comes up!

The Emoji Test

Naturally, there are different ways to communicate feelings. In this exercise, you and your child will use emojis to talk about your feelings.

The exercise is simple – here’s how it works: You ask a question, and your child answers by pointing to an emoji. Of course, you can also answer the question! Feel free to talk further about any thoughts and concerns that may have arisen.

Fotografi: En flicka i tonåren håller underarmen framför ögonen. På armen har hon ritat två ögon som blundar.
  • How was your day?
  • How does it feel in your body when you're happy?
  • How does it feel in your body when you're sad?
  • How do you feel when
    it's time to go to school?
  • How do you feel when
    you try new things?
  • How do you feel when you
    hang out with your friends?
  • How does it feel when someone says something mean to you?

Or, you can also do it in a more playful way and try this interactive emoji wheel. Spin it by clicking it, and click again to stop!

Föräldrapepp

(Parenting boost!)

Being a parent can be really wonderful – and really tough. And when parenthood feels especially tough, you may need a little extra boost. Here you can find the text Extra föräldrapepp (Extra parenting boost). The text is in Swedish and contains simple thought exercises and methods that can help you deal with the worries and emotions that may bubble up.

Out of the ordinary

For many children, the years between age 9 and 12 is a fairly carefree period, but the first signs of anxiety disorder and depression, for example, may appear now. It is perfectly normal for your child to feel anxious at times or in the face of specific situations. But if the feelings grow or do not go away, and you are worried about your child, we recommend that you contact a school nurse, your vårdcentral (healthcare centre) or 1177 Vårdguiden.

If You Need More Help

Here you can find important healthcare contacts and information on organisations that can support you as a parent or other important adult in a child’s life. (In Swedish)