If you’re a parent, talking to your kids about mental health can seem uncomfortable for everyone involved. 

We just want our kids to be happy and carefree, but that’s not always the case in modern society. The last few years, especially, have shown that children are not immune to mental health issues and that being open and honest about the topic of mental health is the best way to go. 

Today, we offer tips on how to talk to your kids about mental health to open the conversation and keep it going.

What is Mental Health?

The term mental health can have many different meanings depending on who you ask, but it always includes elements of our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. 

The state of our mental health affects how we feel, how we think, and how we act on a consistent basis. It also helps to determine how we relate to others, handle stressful situations, and make healthy choices. 

There’s also a strong connection between mental health and physical health, which makes talking to your children about it even more important.

Tips for Talking to Your Kids About Mental Health

Here are some useful tips that will help guide you when you want to talk to your kids about mental health.

Confront any internal biases

Before you start any mental health conversation with your children, take a look inside to determine if you have any internalized bias toward mental health in general. 

Do you hold negative opinions about certain mental health conditions? Do you have any fears related to mental health? Do you use outdated or derogatory terms in your everyday language? Starting with a clean slate and without any stories or preconceived notions of your own is the best way to have healthy and productive conversations with your kids.

Start early

If you want your kids to adopt a healthy relationship and attitude toward mental health, getting started as soon as possible makes sense. You can get started as early as you want talking about feelings and teaching them about different types of emotions and what they mean.

Normalize the subject matter

This ties into getting started early, but whenever you start the conversation, be sure to make it known that mental health is just a normal thing to talk about. If your kids grow up knowing that talking about mental health is just a normal part of the conversation, it will make their lives a whole lot easier.

Use age-appropriate language

As a parent, you know your child better than anyone, and you know what kind of language is going to get through to them. Using age-appropriate language will help you communicate more clearly, and help them receive and absorb the messages you’re trying to send.

Meet them where they are

If you have teens that you want to start talking to about mental health, it’s a good idea to meet them where they are in their development and in their social reality. Take an interest in the activities they enjoy, people they like to follow on social media, or types of music they like to help meet them where they are instead of expecting them to move out of their comfort zone and meet you where you are.

Listen actively and without judgment

When talking to your kids about mental health, you want to be attentive and an active participant in the conversation without showing any judgment. Being judgmental about a potentially delicate topic is a great way to get your kids to shut down and internalize things you want them to share with you.

Be a good role model

Modeling the kinds of behaviors you want your kids to show is a great way to set them on the path to good mental health moving forward. Let them see that you can get upset sometimes if you’ve had a tough day and how you’re able to navigate those feelings. At the same time, be mindful of your parenting boundaries because your kids want to feel like you’re in control so they can spend their time being kids.

No two kids are exactly alike, so you should always customize your delivery to meet your child’s needs, tendencies, likes, and dislikes. Following the tips and advice above should help you get the conversation going and let them know that mental health isn’t anything to be ashamed of and is, in fact, an important part of living a healthy and happy life.

Samaritan Counseling Center

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