Children and Mental Health……….. How Do We Start Talking About It?
If you’re a parent and you or another family member or friend has experienced mental health concerns, I’m guessing that you will feel apprehensive about talking to your children about them.
It seems like there are so many adult conversations that we need to have with our generation of children, sometimes, it may feel that we are exposing them to more adult topics than we would rather.
So how then do we best manage talking about mental health with our children?
Your first reaction, may be to avoid talking about it all together. If you do speak about it, what should you say?
I believe, as a therapist and a parent that when you talk openly and age appropriately about these issues, it can teach your children to understand, cope and encourage greater understanding of others, which in turn can help reduce the stigma surrounding mental illnesses.
To start with it’s a good idea to cover some basic facts………
Mental illnesses are very common; 1 out of every 4 adults will have one
1 in 10 children in school will currently be experiencing a mental health issue
Mental health can and often does improve
You will know best how to communicate with your child.
Here are some suggestions
1. Keep their age and maturity in mind.
2. Simple language and plenty of reassurance to reduce their fears
3. Let the child guide the conversation so that they feel safe, set the pace and know that they can ask questions. This way they get the information they need, no more, no less.
4. Talk to a trusted member of staff at school, its likely that there is a Play therapist and/or a counsellor employed in school these days that may be able to help. Your child can see once in a while for a check in.
I hope that these tips are useful, there’s not necessarily a ‘right way’ or perfect time to talk about mental health issues with your children. If we are supportive, loving and honest when we approach this topic with them, it’s a good enough start.
Please get in touch with Anna