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Rio Ferdinand reveals why he tells his children they don't have to be happy all the time

The footballer says it's ok to cry

Tracy Schaverien
Features Contributor
13 May 2024
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Rio Ferdinand has told HELLO! how he and his wife Kate encourage their children to cry as he helps launch a new campaign for McDonald's for Mental Health Awareness Week. 

The former England and Manchester United star and father of five says: "Communicating with our kids is so important and we're all so busy in our lives that sometimes, as parents, we lose sight of that. 

"It's just saying that it's ok to cry sometimes, it's ok to feel emotions and just relaying to your children that I feel vulnerable sometimes, I feel sad sometimes, and to relay those experiences. 

Kate Ferdinand and Rio Ferdinand keep it casual when they attend event
"I encourage my son not to cry if he's tired or whatever, and my wife is always saying to me, 'It's actually all right for him to cry,'" says Rio

"It's important that people understand that there's going to be a point in your life where things aren't going to plan and where you might feel vulnerable, where you don't feel as strong as you normally do. But that's OK and that is normal."

Relationship with his children

In our exclusive interview, Rio also explains why the restaurant chain has dropped the iconic smile from millions of Happy Meal boxes across the country this week, in an effort to show youngsters that it's ok not to be happy all of the time. 

"As parents, we're always encouraging our children to be happy and we're conditioned to think it's not OK to cry," he says. "I encourage my son not to cry if he's tired or whatever, and my wife is always saying to me, 'It's actually all right for him to cry'," says Rio, who is dad to sons Lorenz, 17, Tate, 14, and Cree, three and daughters Tia, 12 and 10-month-old Shae. 

"With a good relationship, you complement each other. There are areas that I might be a little bit weaker in, or I might see things a bit differently, and Kate might balance that out with an opinion or a conversation that makes me see things differently. I'm fortunate to have that because not everybody does."

Kate Ferdinand's two younger children she shares with Rio© Instagram
Rio shares five children with Kate

Losing his first wife Rebecca to cancer

The campaign's message strikes a personal chord with Rio, who lost his first wife Rebecca, the mother of his three elder children, to breast cancer in 2015.

"I think lots of kids nowadays feel like they have to be happy even when they don't want to, because they don't want to upset their parents," he says. "I think my kids have told me that after the stuff that we went through. 

"You feel terrible because you want them to be themselves and to feel comfortable showing emotion when they need to."

Rio Ferdinand works with McDonald's on mental health campaign
The retired footballer has launched a new campaign for McDonald's for Mental Health Awareness Week

Alongside the new look Happy Meal boxes are sheets of stickers showcasing different emotions, and McDonald's is working with BBC Children in Need to create a dedicated hub of resources which can be accessed via a QR code on the boxes, as well as via the McDonald's website and social media channels. 

"There is help in how to approach these conversations, which I find difficult myself," Rio admits. "It seems simple but sometimes we don't ask things like, 'How's your day been? Have you enjoyed yourself today? Did anything go wrong today?' 

"Communication is so important. When you speak about a problem, the release of tension and the anxiety is released tenfold. You always feel better after a conversation and a little bit of an emotional moment."

Rio Ferdinand has teamed up with McDonald's and BBC Children in Need, as the iconic smile disappears from Happy Meal® boxes for the first time ever this Mental Health Awareness Week (May 13th-19th). 

To read the full interview, pick up the latest issue of HELLO! on sale in the UK now. You can subscribe to HELLO! to get the magazine delivered free to your door every week or purchase the digital edition online via our Apple or Google apps.

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