It can be difficult to find the right words to talk to your kids about depression, anxiety, and mental illness. But starting the conversation early can give kids a healthy head start. This makes conversations in the future easier, whether it’s about relationships, school, or even moving out and a mortgage quote. Being able to have this conversation with your kids will help them come to you for anything later on.
Talking to kids about mental illness is hard, so hard that many of us put it off indefinitely, not wanting to expose them to things like depression or clinical anxiety when they are so young. Still, kids should understand that mental health means having a balance in life, which looks different for everyone. Learning about mental health at a young age can help them find their equilibrium and recognize things in their lives that throw them out of balance. In addition, it helps make your home a safer place for children. This is essential as they may be feeling uncertainty after the pandemic. But how do you start?
Talk To Your Child
By taking twenty minutes to do an activity, you both enjoy, whether it’s baking, cooking, coloring, you can create a relaxed and safe space for getting the conversation started. Help your child find your voice.
It doesn’t matter what topic the conversation starts with; it’s about the opportunity it gives you to talk about feelings and provide comfort. While the activity you guys have prepared is on the way, what is the best way to encourage your child to open up? Start with open questions that enable them to delve more into their answers. Like, “What was the best bit of your day? What would you like to talk about?” “What was the biggest problem you had today?”
What Happens If They Don’t Want To Talk Right Now?
That’s perfectly fine! If they aren’t ready to talk about it, you have set the scene to allow them to speak to you if they ever need to! Reassure them they can talk to you any time and maybe say things like “you can talk to me any time” and “we are going to get through this together.”
You could also see whether other forms of communication like writing a letter or texting would make it easier for your child to let you know what is going on. Remember that you know your child. You can tell when it isn’t the right time so they are not in the mood to talk.
What Happens If Your Child Tells You They Are Struggling
It is important to make sure that they feel seen and heard. When responding, make sure to validate their feelings, thank them for sharing because it is a lot! Let them know you love them and are there for them, and let them know of any helplines, text lines, and online chat services available. Avoid conversations at the height of distress. It’s important to be there for them, but it can be more helpful to talk about the causes when things are feeling calmer.
Sometimes using real-life experience and celebrities’ experiences can help open up the conversation with your child as it’s something they may relate to. If you think your child needs professional support, speaking to their GP and school, and considering whether counseling or therapy might help, are good places to start.
This is a contributed post.