Simple Steps to Start Mental Health Conversations with Your Kids
sponsored by 988 Mental Health Lifeline
Whether your child is the liveliest and most happy-go-lucky kid on the block or you have recently picked up on signs they may be quietly struggling, it is important to introduce an open dialogue about mental health. Discussing topics like mental health with your kids is vital to ensure they are comfortable asking for help if the time ever comes. Creating space for open communication and dialogue with your children about mental health allows the subject to become normalized and safe. The reality is that most children deal with mental illness, and many are fearful of opening up about it due to discomfort about the subject.
Removing humiliation from mental illnesses like anxiety, depression and more can improve the likelihood that your children will be comfortable confiding about struggles in the future. If you have yet to begin this exchange, let’s dive into some tips on integrating emotional discussions into your family’s day-to-day conversations.
Beginning conversations around mental health at any age can be as simple as showing interest in their day and discussing the emotions of your day. For example, when you are talking about their day at school, your child may express that they had difficulty completing an assignment in class. Through a conversation like this, you can invest more time into the emotions that went into the obstacle they faced. Asking how this hiccup made them feel can lead to how it may have affected other aspects of their day. By showing interest in how certain parts of their day made them feel, you can connect with their emotions rather than strictly facts.
Listen and validate experiences
With mental health, stigma is often attached to the topic, and if your child feels ashamed, they may be less inclined to discuss their worries, struggles or obstacles. Opening the conversation to talk about what they are experiencing can allow you to listen and empathize with your kids. Validating that handling anxiety, depression or any behavioral health issue is allowed and okay to share.
It may be helpful to tell your child about other people who experience similar problems. If you or someone your child trusts experience mental health conditions, explain that the same way you would tell them about other illnesses. Mental illness can run in families, and it helps to show they are not the only people who feel this way. It can be very reassuring if you or a family member can have a conversation with your child about their own mental health and how they manage it.
Be open to conversations and questions
Children have all sorts of questions as they learn, so being open and giving them information about how to cope will better their understanding of it. If your child asks a question you don’t know the answer to, it’s alright to say you don’t know and then work together to find a solution or resource.
Many kids and teens are naturally intuitive, allow them to explore the topic on their own and come back with their own dialogue. Providing examples or resources such as the 988 Mental Health Lifeline will enable them to take the information learned through conversations with you and continue nurturing their mental health independently. Odds are, they may come to you with questions they have found or bring up the topic on their own next time.
Talking about their mental health with your child can be easier than you imagine. For additional information and resources, call or text 988 or visit 988Oklahoma.com.
Learn more about the 988 Mental Health Lifeline at tulsakids.com/learn-about-the-988-mental-health-lifeline/