My mum has incipient dementia. She is now in a care home because it takes more than one person to look after her. The disease is heart-breaking both for her and those who love her. It is hard to be so far away so I stay in England several months a year and visit regularly. Sometimes she comes out with unkind things she wouldn’t dream of saying if her mind was intact. Such an occasion happened last summer. I am a mature (define mature!), intelligent (mostly) and emotionally literate (trying anyway) woman so rationally I know that these words should not affect me. But they did. I sat quietly on the bus a morass of despair, guilt, fury and grief. The emotions were overwhelming.
And then I thought about all the kids who have much worse things said to them – often by people who are supposed to be caring and loving – that undermine, reject, demean, belittle and accuse. Those children and young people do not have my resources so often act out. We need greater awareness of how much words matter and think about the effect they might have on the self concepts of developing children. Sticks and stones AND words can hurt. Words can also create, build and strengthen. Unlike my mum, most of us have choices.