Many parents and caregivers don’t know how to talk to kids about mental health and talking to young people about their mental health can be difficult. Young people don’t always understand how to name their feelings, and they feel uncomfortable sharing details about their lives that cause them shame.
Social stigmas against mental and emotional problems persist in our culture, even as newer attitudes toward public mental health improve. Children and teens will naturally assume that they are to blame for their mental conditions, and it is the parents and caretakers’ responsibility to ensure they feel safe sharing their mental health needs.
Read on to learn more about how to talk to kids about mental health including ways to make this conversation a nurturing, ongoing part of the relationship with your teen.
(Note: If your child is having a crisis and is considering suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 998.)
3 Strategies for Talking to Your Child About Mental Health
Talking about your mental health should be as common and normal as discussing your physical health. Have frequent conversations with your teen about your feelings, and be candid both when you struggle and when your mental health is strong. Ask open-ended questions such as “How are you feeling today?” or “What has been on your mind this week?” to normalize the conversation around mental health.
Foster an Open and Supportive Atmosphere
The first step towards discussing mental health with your teen is fostering an open and safe space where discourse is encouraged, and adults never respond with judgment.
The best part about this is how easy it is! Simply speak to your teen as you would like to be spoken to. Be forthright and honest, speak in a non-judgmental way, and make sure your teen knows that your number one priority is their wellbeing.
Listen to Their Symptoms without Judgement
One good way to allow children to speak about their mental health conditions without the fear of stigma is to treat them as though they were physical medical problems. Young people hear about medical problems often and probably understand how a doctor diagnoses and treats illnesses.
If you and your child talk about mental health in the way you talk about physical health, they will feel less stigma and shame about sharing their feelings, and you can have much more productive conversations about how to offer support.
Educate Your Child About Mental Health
Just as you would train a young person on a new job, you will want to educate them about caring for their mental health. Adults must teach them about common mental health problems, coping mechanisms, and the importance of reaching out for a helping hand when their emotions overwhelm them.
Research shows that educated people are better at recovering after suffering the inevitable emotional setbacks that life hands us all, so the sooner they learn good habits, the happier their lives will be.
If you don’t feel qualified to do the educating yourself, a perfect way to start the conversation is to make an appointment with a mental health professional. They will be able to answer many of your questions and ground your decision-making in sound advice.
A counselor can suggest which behaviors are healthy and which need adjustment, teach you helpful coping strategies, recommend books for further research, and give you a plan in case of a crisis. They can also dispel a lot of misinformation and misconceptions you may have picked up from the internet or conventional wisdom.
Advanced Behavioral Health is a perfect place to start the conversation about mental health with your teen. Several of our qualified professionals specialize in adolescent counseling, and we have decades of experience helping young people grow into healthy adults.
We understand young people and look forward to educating, empowering, and enlightening you and your teen. And we handle each case confidentially.
Call today at 301-345-1022 or send us a message online here. We are standing by to help you get the conversation going.