ABH Maryland

How to Actually Talk to Your Child About Mental Health


How to Actually Talk to Your Child About Mental Health

  • Children Mental Health
  • Mental Health

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. 

Contact Us

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. 

When you think of the well-being of a child, you first think of basic needs: food, water, and shelter. Once these needs are met, however, it’s crucial for a child to have emotional and social wellness as well. In this article, we will explore the impact social wellness has on the overall health of a child and great ways for children to garner social support in their lives.

It comes as no surprise that as human beings, we all need connection with others, no matter what stage of life we are in. In fact, having social support is a social determinant of health (SDOH) that significantly impacts the health of an individual. After spending the last few years in and out of isolation due to the Covid-19 outbreak, social support is more important now than ever before. Having social support means having family members and friends you can talk to and seek advice from when life feels challenging and overwhelming. Knowing you’re not alone in your life journey, especially as a child, creates a sense of belonging and empowerment throughout one’s life.

4 Types of Social Support

Emotional Support. This type of support lets you know that people care about you and have empathy for your experiences. Emotional support often looks like people checking in on you to let you know they’re thinking of you, and that they are there if you need anything. As a parent, make sure your child knows you can be a sounding board for them. If you have family members who can also show up for your children in this way, even better!

Practical Help. This type of support is when people give you something tangible or offer a service to help you out. This could be in the form of money, making food when you are sick, or helping to pack when moving. Having family and friends show up in this way shows your child what it looks like to be present for people you love.

Sharing Points of View. This type of support can often come in the form of affirmations and encouragement. For example, pointing out your child’s strengths to them and reminding them they can do anything they put their mind to. It can also look like sharing another perspective if they are being hard on themselves. For example, if they are angry with themselves after receiving a bad grade on a test, you can help them see it as a learning experience and a way for them to grow.

Sharing Information. This type of support is when someone shares what they’ve learned from their own life experiences. For example, if another parent has a child who struggles with socializing, they can share some tips and tricks they’ve learned to help their child find and create social support.

The Importance of Social Groups and Extended Support

Children who are connected to their family, friends, and people in their community have opportunities to learn how to speak, share, and get along with others. When your child feels connected to people in your neighborhood, it often allows them to feel physically safe which can alleviate stress and worry. Simply riding bikes, going on walks, and saying hello to neighbors with your kids can create this sense of security for them.

In addition to engaging with your neighbors, getting involved in local organizations can also create social support for your child. Signing up for a sports team, musical theater, art class or summer camp are all great ways to help your child meet new friends and learn important social skills that can carry them through their lives.

Tips for Helping Kids Make Community Connections:

Spend time outside in your neighborhood playing on the playground, going to a local farmer’s market, or scheduling a playdate with neighborhood kids.

Show your kids that connection is a two-way street. If your neighbors or friends go out of town, offer to get their mail, or water their plants and take your child with you when you go. This will show your child how you show up for people you care about.

Make sure you make time for socializing with friends as well. Your child looks to you first and foremost for how they should act and live their own life.

Encourage your child to step out of their comfort zone and do something they may be scared to do. As a parent, it’s your job to push them into something social for their own well-being at times.