How Can Parents Talk to Children About Mental Health?

Openly talking about mental health can sometimes be difficult. Most of the time, even adults struggle to figure out and understand their emotional and mental state, as well as communicating their wants and needs. Having an honest conversation about mental health can help not only adults, but children as well. The more we talk about mental health, the more chances we have to destigmatize it and encourage others to partake in difficult conversations without feeling guilt or shame.

Including the topic of mental health in our conversations from time to time is a great start, and we must have these types of conversations with our kids, as well. It’s a sensitive topic, so we have to make sure we convey the right information in the right manner and make sure we don’t talk in ways that can make kids get defensive or cause them to shut down completely. 

Depression and anxiety are now at an all-time high due to the pandemic, and for parents, paying attention to children’s mental health is paramount.

Why should you have conversations with children about mental health, and how?

The presence of a caring and loving adult can make or break a child’s development. For children, having a stable, safe, and nurturing relationship with their parents is very important, even if they don’t realize it at a young age. Starting a dialogue about this topic doesn’t necessarily have to happen only when we see signs of mental health problems in our children. It is advised that we educate them regardless if they were or weren’t diagnosed with a disorder, so that they can identify what they’re feeling in the years to come. 

Even if your child is healthy, knowing about difficulties that others are facing can help them be more empathetic to those who are suffering. This can also decrease bullying among young people in schools. Furthermore, if you’re the one going through difficult times, it’s also important to share this with your child in an honest but intelligent way, rather than hiding and pretending everything is fine. Children are very intuitive and can pick up on these things very quickly.

We deal with these issues every day at Da Vinci Collaborative, so we wanted to create a list of different approaches parents can take when talking about mental health with their kids, to help better understand themselves and their emotions. 

1. Do your research

Before starting a mental health conversation with your child, or anybody else for that matter, you have to make sure you have the right information at your disposal. Whether you’re initiating a discussion on anxiety, ADHD, depression, or any other disorder, it’s critical that you have a good comprehension of the topic. The last thing you want is to confuse or make a situation even worse for someone who is already struggling.

2. Have compassion

Remember to come from a place of understanding, rather than a place of judgment, especially if you know your child is struggling. Try to put yourself in their shoes and create a safe space where both of you can share. Having empathy and compassion with such delicate subjects is very important, and in these vulnerable spaces children can actually see how much you care for their wellbeing. 

3. Ask questions even when nothing’s wrong

You don’t have to wait until your child is showing signs of mental health problems. You can casually slip in the subject of mental health in your conversations, which can not only help them understand themselves better, but allow them to put themselves in the shoes of those who might be suffering. Educating children on mental health topics can help destigmatize it, increase awareness on the matter, as well as decrease bullying.

4. Don’t try to fix them

Raising awareness about mental health in the household can be effective, however, do not try to fix anybody that’s going through difficult times, including your children. There are countless ways to support them and show up for them, but forcing change on a person who is struggling can do more damage than good. You can try to guide them in subtle ways, encourage them as well as congratulate them on their progress, but if things are not getting better, try getting in touch with a professional.

5. Be honest

Honesty goes a long way when it comes to the relationship with your children. Hiding your mental health issues from your kids is unhealthy, and you should try to be as truthful as possible if you’re going through hard times. Don’t overshare or become a burden to your children, however, do offer a bit of a perspective and let them know about your struggles. This way, they’ll understand that it’s ok to share and be vulnerable, and they’ll be more likely to do the same. 

Conclusion: when in doubt, reach out

As you can see, there are a handful of methods you can incorporate into your talks about mental health with your children. Honesty, compassion, and care are by far the most important things to consider when venturing into mental health conversations. If children feel safe, they’re more likely to be inclined to share their struggles and problems. If, however, you can’t seem to find a way through and discuss mental health matters with your child, or you need support in this process, don’t hesitate to reach out to a professional. The essential thing to remember is to get help for your child as soon as possible, before the problem gets worse. 

Looking for specialized tutors for your children?

Our tutors here at DaVinci Collaborative work with children every day to help them study and progress. We’re a team of professionals who teach children with different mental health issues and help them overcome difficulties and succeed academically. If your child is struggling with anxiety, ADHD, dyslexia, or autism, we can craft personalized lessons for them that can improve their learning process. If you’re in need of specialized tutoring for your child, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us, our teachers can’t wait to meet new students and embark on new learning journeys.

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