Mental health is such an important topic and with the added challenges we have faced over the last 2 years of schooling, it is important to build our student’s level of understanding. Having good mental health is a key part of overall wellbeing for children and adults alike. Some people find it hard to talk to kids about mental health, because they’re worried the topic might be upsetting, they don’t know how to talk about it or they think it’s something kids don’t need to know about. But talking to children about mental health from a young age can help them understand their emotions, become more resilient, reduce stigma about mental illness, and teach them how to look after themselves mentally as well as physically.
Learning about mental wellbeing is just as important for kids as learning about physical health, and there are simple ways to make this topic a normal part of everyday conversation with children. Read on for tips on talking about mental health with children.
Tips for talking to your child about Mental Health
1. Make conversations about mental health a normal part of life: Anywhere is a good place to talk; in the car, walking the dog or cooking together. Model everyday talk about feelings such as by talking about a TV or book character’s feelings.
2. Give your full attention: We all know it’s horrible to be half listened to. Keep eye contact, focus on the child and ignore distractions.
3. Check your body language: Try to keep it open and relaxed and make sure you come down to the child’s level.
4. Take it seriously: Don’t downplay what the child is saying or tell them they’re “just being silly”. Resist the urge to reassure them that everything is fine.
5. Ask open questions: Such as “How did your day go today?” This will help to extend the conversation.
6. Calmly stay with the feelings that arise: It can be our automatic reaction to steer away from difficult emotions.
7. Offer empathy rather than solutions: Show that you accept what they are telling you but don’t try to solve the problem.
8. Remember we are all different: Respect and value the child’s feelings, even though they may be different to yours.
Michael Searl WellBeing Coordinator