How Can I Talk to My Children About Mental Health?
Updated: Mar 28
Wondering how to talk to your kids about mental health? It can be an overwhelming and heavy topic. You don't want to freak your kids out, but you want them to understand what mental health is, why it's so important, and how to spot signs they're struggling and learn to ask for help.
Whether you choose to speak to your kids about mental health or not, odds are they're learning something somewhere. They could be absorbing inaccurate and misleading information from peers, the internet, or anywhere else. This unregulated information can lead to confusion and even cause anxiety and a decreased chance of asking for help if they need it.
The Benefits of Talking to Your Kids About Mental Health
You might worry that speaking with your children about mental health could create a problem. You don't want them to become anxious about mental health issues. Speaking with your kids about the importance of their mental health helps them remain open and encourages them to seek out healthy methods of handling stress.
All children experience unhappy emotions, explaining mental health and the importance of self-care to children, even at a young age, can help them be more willing to discuss problems and work through them productively. Whether you think you're child may be struggling with their mental health or not, introducing them to mental illness, caring for their mental health, and talking to you about it helps them know there is no shame in how they're feeling.
When you are willing to open up with them and trust them to handle serious conversations, you encourage them to follow your lead. Setting an example for your kids by taking care of your mental health is also essential to their growth and development. Your children's mental health is more than just being happy or sad. It has a lot to do with hitting milestones,
interacting with other children socially, and handling unpleasant experiences. Ensuring they not only have their basic needs met but also understand their emotions, controlling them, and interacting with others allows them to function at their highest level.
How to Talk to Your Kids About Mental Health
When speaking with children about mental health, they must understand that struggles are not bad. They should feel safe and comfortable speaking up about their stress or worries. Teaching a child about mental health and wellness is not just about encouraging them to be happy but teaching them how to get there.
You don't want to go into a conversation with your child by pressuring them to be mentally well or telling them that mental illnesses are bad. You should have a good knowledge of mental health before speaking with your children. Any confusion or misinformation you carry will pass to them and could cause more problems. There are many reputable online resources if you need guidance, or you can speak with a child psychologist to get more clarity.
Begin with asking your child how they are. Discuss their feelings about the day they had at school. Offer up how you felt about something that happened and how you dealt with it. You can't expect them to open up to you without you opening up to them. For example, you can share how you were upset you got the wrong food when you ordered lunch, but you thought about it and realized it wasn't a big deal because you got to try something new. Explaining how you handled an unhappy or stressful situation, even a small one, encourages them to open up and consider how they are dealing with their problems.
It is vital to start these conversations early and continuously. One conversation with a child about their feelings will not offer much insight. Taking time to ask them how their day was, what they did, and how they felt about it regularly reminds them that their feelings are important. Talking with you about how they feel can even help them realize things they didn't notice earlier in the day. You can help them solve problems, adding to their level of independence.
It is also important not to act like their problems aren't important. They may be upset about something you think is minor and saying, "it isn't that bad" can invalidate them. Encourage their feelings and let them know it is okay to be upset, and you understand. From there, work through the problem instead of ignoring it.
Speaking to kids about mental health can become a speech or interrogation quickly. Make sure you are letting them talk and ask questions too. If they feel sad, instead of asking them pointed questions, introduce an idea and let them carry it along. For instance, if they came home from school in a bad mood. Say, "It seems like you're upset about something that happened at school," instead of specifically asking what happened. This allows them to come forward and open up.
To help your child accept these conversations, communicate at their level. Let them react and watch how they do so you don't overwhelm or confuse them. Take your time. You don't need to teach them everything about mental health at once. This should be an ongoing conversation.
If you think your child is struggling with a mental illness or other emotional struggles, talk to their doctor. Introducing your child to a therapist is not a sign of failure. Even if nothing is wrong, it is healthy for you and your children to know that seeking help is a sign of strength. Your child should feel proud that they can open up and ask for help, not ashamed.
Mental health is a complicated topic. There is a lot that goes into it at every age. When introducing mental health to your children, you want to ensure you have a good level of knowledge yourself. Understanding more than the basics allows you to answer questions and offer insight. You want to encourage your children to be open about their feelings and struggles without pressure. Of course, you want your kids to be happy, allowing them to feel all their feelings, validates them, and builds confidence. Opening up to your children about your feelings and dealing with stress can also help them learn coping and social skills. Engaging with your children about even more complicated things like mental health and mental illness shows them you trust them and that they can come to you and ask for help without shame or judgment. California Care Detox & Treatment can provide you with more information. Call us today at (949) 281-0632.