Educating your child about mental health 

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Health Assured team

11 February 2022

There are several big conversations you’ll need to have with your child when they’re growing up. And we believe that mental health should be one of them. Young Minds found that one in six children aged five-16 were identified as having a mental health problem. That’s many little ones out there who are struggling—which is exactly what makes this conversation so important.

Navigating the hormone changes of puberty can be extremely difficult, and many contributing factors can affect your child’s mental health. From school pressures to conflict with friends and the impact of social media, we’re all aware of the challenges growing up can bring. 

As parents and caregivers, we can help support children through this process by educating them about mental health. Having this conversation helps children understand what’s going on in their minds. It also increases the chances they will seek support if they are struggling. We’ve put together some tips below on approaching this conversation with your child.

Use analogies and stories 

Mental health is a tricky concept to convey in words. Using analogies and stories can help children grasp abstract concepts like this. It can be helpful to compare mental health to physical health. Explain that just like how our bodies can get unwell and sick from time to time, so too can our minds.

You could try talking about times when you were unwell and had to go to the doctors to get help for an injury or illness. Talk about how this injury stopped you from doing certain things and meant you needed time off to recover. Then explain that when you’re not feeling well in your mind, it’s important to get help and rest, just like it is with your body. 

Honesty is the best policy

Open, honest communication always produces the best results. If you’ve experienced a mental health problem yourself, it can be helpful to mention this to your child when the time is right. Try to explain as simply as possible how the condition affected you. Answer any questions your child has honestly and to the best of your knowledge.

Explain what to look out for 

Thoughts, feelings and emotions can be confusing for children, and they might not be sure how to deal with them. Try to make your child aware of some of the signs to look out for that something isn’t quite right. Sometimes it can be hard to identify whether it’s just a phase of low mood or whether it’s a mental health problem you’re dealing with. Here are some signs you could try to make your child aware of:

  • Feeling sad or down
  • Not feeling like seeing friends
  • Not sleeping well
  • Feeling confused
  • Struggling to concentrate

Encourage openness 

Try to be as open with your child when you’re having these conversations and answer any questions they have. Encourage them to do the same by building trust between you. Create a safe environment at home that allows your children to voice any worries they might have. You don’t have to have these conversations all the time. But it can be good to regularly check in with your child and see how they are doing. Ask about and listen to their feelings. Try not to jump to conclusions or judge them. This way they’re more likely to open up to you in the future.

For more advice on how to educate your child about mental health, please contact Health Assured on: 

UK: 0844 892 2493

ROI: 01 886 0324

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