Talking to your children about mental health can seem like an enormous endeavor. Whether it’s time to talk about your own mental health, the mental health of a loved one, or to give your children the vocabulary to talk about their mental health, Insyte Psychiatric can offer a guide.
As you prepare to discuss mental health with your child, there are a few general guidelines you may find to be beneficial. First, pick a good time and location for this conversation. You want your child to feel comfortable and safe when you decide to discuss a sensitive topic. Then, communicate in a straightforward manner. It goes without saying, the discussion should be appropriate for both their age and developmental level; sometimes a child has not developed the skillset to process certain information. It’s also important to watch your child’s reaction. If necessary, pause and ask for their feedback if your child appears to become upset or confused.
Be Prepared To Answer Questions
It’s natural for your child to be curious or confused, so be ready to handle any questions your child may have for you, and let them know you want them to have a safe environment for their understanding. While very young children would benefit from simple answers so that they are not overwhelmed by details, you will notice older children are capable of asking specific questions about people in their lives. Meanwhile, teenagers may be vulnerable to having heard misinformation, so they would benefit from an open discussion. Here, a two-way avenue of communication would be best. As you may already know, a teenager may not be as receptive to the information given as a lecture. It is even a good idea to start by asking them what they know or have heard about mental health.
Take An Interest In Your Child’s Social Media Habits
Nowadays, social media is an integral part of everyday life and young adolescents can be especially impressionable when it comes to the media and messages they see. Ask your child about their social media habits. Who do they follow? Who do they interact with? How do they interact with that person or group? Social media is a huge part of emotional and mental life, especially during their developmental years. Getting involved can also be an excellent way of talking with your kids about mental health concerns such as unhealthy dieting or false expectations and comparison.
Practice And Demonstrate Vulnerability
Perhaps the best way to make your child feel safe about talking with you about mental health is by getting into the practice of communicating your own emotions and boundaries and modeling this healthy behavior for your kids. You can let your child observe how you navigate difficult emotions, and share how you cope and take care of yourself. Use positive techniques such as journaling, going to therapy, engaging in a pleasant hobby, going on a walk, or phoning a friend.
Remember To Reassure And Validate Your Child
Mental health conversations can be hard, especially if it comes time for your child to share their own experiences and fears. As you prepare what to say, don’t forget to make room to listen to what your child may want to tell you. If your child is experiencing mental health difficulties, remember to reassure your child and tell them their mental health hurdles are not their fault. Remind them that you are here to support them and highlight their strengths and everything else you love about them.
Insyte Psychiatric has provided mental health treatments and solutions for many families in New Jersey. Our specialists have experience in family therapy, self-esteem counseling, and many other services dedicated to mental and emotional wellness. If you or your child is struggling to find their own way through a mental health issue, don’t hesitate to find the help you need.