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How To Talk to Kids About Mental Health

Talking to kids about mental health, particularly mental illness, is tough for many of us. Some parents may believe that by not discussing depression, anxiety, or mental health in general with their children, they are protecting their children’s innocence, but the pandemic has resulted in an increase in mental health issues among children.

As our children return to school, we can expose them to mental health in non-threatening and non-frightening ways. Continue reading for advice on how to talk to your child about mental health.

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The pandemic and its effect on kids’ mental health

Many children are still processing the last year and a half under lockdown now that the world appears to be opening up again. “The COVID-19 quarantine produced severe social isolation,” psychologist Dr. Stacie Coveleski. “So approach [your kids] with an open discourse about how this has impacted them.” Aside from the solitude, many children suffered from emotional exhaustion as a result of stress, social alienation, scholastic disturbance, and worry, all of which had a significant impact on their mental health.

As your children return to school for the fall semester, keep in mind that they may act out because they don’t know how to express their concerns and emotions.

Even older children should be aware of this. “It’s critical to give a space for your teen to share on a frequent basis while demonstrating patience and a nonjudgmental attitude,” Coveleski added. She also mentioned that because teenagers place a high value on their friends, parents may find it useful to inquire about their pals as a way to start difficult conversations.

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Mental health issues: Why it’s important to explain to kids

There is still a stigma associated with mental health, so it’s critical for parents to define mental health in a way that normalises self-care.

Anitra Durand Allen, a mental health advocate and pre-professional, says, “Society tells us that expressing emotion is harmful.” “I want [my teens] to understand that emotions are natural and that the goal is to learn to control our reactions.” This, nevertheless, necessitates that we give sentiments their due.”

“You can talk about taking care of your mental health with your children in the same way you talk about taking care of your physical health with yearly doctor check-ups, vaccines, and personal hygiene,” says paediatrician Steph Lee, MD, MPH, FAAP. A spokesman for the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggested that parents begin by normalising mental health. “Every day, check in on their emotional status and use it as a bonding opportunity.” One of my favourite positive psychology techniques is to ask, “What three positive things happened to me today?”

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How to talk with your kids about their mental health

Of course, knowing that talking to our children about their mental health is a good idea is one thing. It’s one thing to say it; it’s another to actually execute it. Keep in mind that your teen is going through a difficult developmental stage where he or she is disconnecting from their parents and forming their own identities. “As a parent begins to engage in discussions about mental health, kids may want seclusion,” Coveleski said.

If you’re not sure how to talk to your kids about their mental health in the same way they talk about their physical issues, here are some ideas:

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Use celebrities and current events

When Disney Channel’s Cameron Boyce died, Allen recognised she wanted to talk to her daughters about current events and how sadness, loss, worry, and despair affected them emotionally. “Now, we talk about current issues on a regular basis and offer kids the freedom to express themselves authentically without fear of censoring,” she continued.

Be open and transparent

When counsellor Katherine Shorter mentored teenagers, she found that being open and honest was the most effective approach. “Let them know that mental health concerns aren’t something to be ashamed of,” she advised. “Assist them in developing coping methods and positive mantras, recognising triggers, and, if necessary, referring them to a psychiatrist for medication.”

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Model behavior

A child can smell a phoney from a mile away. Showing your children how to take care of their thoughts and feelings is one of the most effective ways to engage them in the continuous conversation about mental health.

“My children have seen me weep and admit when I’m having a hard day,” editor Jeannette Kaplun. “This made them feel it was OK to articulate and communicate with me how they were feeling.” Now that her children are teenagers, Kaplun will remind them that asking for help is never a show of weakness, but rather of strength, anytime they are anxious or irritable. “I’ve discussed my own experiences to help children understand that mental illness is a part of life and that we can learn to handle it,” she said.

FAQ

  1. How do I talk to my child about mental health?

    How to Talk to Your Child About Their Mental Health
    Make an Analogy to a Medical Problem. …
    Give Them Concrete Explanations. …
    Listen to Them and Validate Their Experiences. …
    Be Sure They Know This Is Not Their Fault. …
    Have Frequent Conversations. …
    Let Them Ask You Questions. …
    Include the Family. …
    Discuss Self-Care and Prevention.

  2. How do you explain mental illness to a child?

    Delays or disturbances in developing age-appropriate thoughts, behaviours, social skills, or emotion control are all examples of mental health issues in children. Children are distressed by these issues, which interfere with their capacity to perform properly at home, at school, and in other social contexts.

  3. How do you explain mental illness to a 7 year old?

    Talking to Kids About Mental Illness
    Keep Your Kids in the Loop. As soon as children are old enough to understand that mommy or daddy isn’t “like the other mommies or daddies,” it’s time to have a talk. …
    Answer Their Questions. …
    Be Honest About Medication. …
    Keep the Conversation Going.

  4. How do you keep a child mentally healthy?

    So, rather than focusing on what mental issues are, let us concentrate on what steps parents can take to boost their child’s mental health.
    Regular playtime. …
    Maintaining a proper diet. …
    Planning vacations or getaways. …
    Creating a positive home environment. …
    Spending time with animals and nature.

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