Talking to your children about mental health

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Health Assured team

18 June 2024

Childhood and adolescence are critical periods that establishes the development of children in many aspects of life. How a child develops through these stages will determine how they grow and mature into functioning members of society.

It’s the time for their personalities to grow and to hit important emotional milestones. So, providing your child with the best and most stable environment for them to grow and thrive in is incredibly important.

It isn’t uncommon for children to experience mental health challenges. In actuality, the Mental Health Foundation confirmed that 20% of adolescents experience a mental health problem in any given year.

Most parents want to provide a safe and comfortable environment for their children to excel in and this focus should be extended to mental health.

Mental health awareness is paramount for the development of children and young people. It allows them to understand mental health, supports them in processing difficult emotions, and increases emotional awareness and resilience.

Why is it important to talk to your children about mental health?

Children and young people deserve a voice, especially when it comes to their mental wellbeing. Being comfortable with conversations around mental health encourages children to develop the ability to easily discus their worries and gain better understand of their mental wellbeing, which are extremely valuable skills.

The NHS recorded that 1 in 5 children and young people experienced a probable mental health disorder in 2023. However, the Mental Health Foundation found that 70% of children and young people do not have appropriate interventions at a sufficiently early age.

Children deserve better and parents should take pride in supporting their children in their mental health. It’s key in knowing your child has the awareness to feel comfortable and safe with their emotions and feelings.

  1. Reduces stigma

Children are the next generation of adults, and their views will significantly impact the world. So, it’s important that children have transparency and the correct information to fully understand mental health challenges. They should be clear in thinking that mental health is anything but shameful. By doing this, we provide significant steps to stamp out harmful stigmas for future generations.

  1. Improved emotional resilience

Supporting your child in feeling comfortable with their own mental health challenges allows them to be better able to deal with mental health challenges while they grow and when they are older.

  1. Better connection

Having open and honest conversations with your child is always beneficial for your connection. They feel as though they can speak to you about anything, which is especially important when it comes to mental wellbeing. It shows you are interested in their feelings and emotions, creating a stronger bond. They may feel more comfortable in approaching you about other challenges they have in their life.

  1. Boosts in confidence

Providing children with the opportunity to talk openly about their mental health allows your child to feel seen, heard, and understood.

It enhances their confidence and make them feel positive around their own emotions and feelings. By creating the safe space to talk about how they are feeling they are more able to understand those emotions and know how to deal with them, subsequently, increase their self-confidence.

How to talk to your child about mental health

As parents there are ways to encourage your children to be open and honest about their mental health, but approaching your child can be a tricky and daunting task. Here are some simple ways to help you.

  1. Start positive

Starting a conversation about mental health isn’t always easy. Start off by letting your child know that you love them and support them, regardless of what they are going through.

Start the conversation when everyone is feeling good, such as after celebrating a successful school test. This way your conversation starts positively, it’s more likely to carry on positivity, and shows to your child that mental health isn’t something they should be frightened of. Never start a conversation about mental health when emotions are running high.

  1. Listen openly and actively

Feeling seen and heard is essential for anyone’s mental health and children are no different. Allow your child to speak freely and without interruption. In fact, it is a good strategy to listen more than you talk so that your child feels listened to. This way your child will feel they can get their emotions out without being judged or talked over.

  1. Reassure them

Mental health is a complex topic and sometimes children may take it to heart if they are struggling because of stigma that is associated.

Reassure them that having challenges with mental health does not make them weak, in fact Let dealing with and overcoming mental health challenges makes them strong. Most importantly, make it clear that it isn’t their fault.

  1. Watch out for reactions

Be conscious about your initial reactions. You may be tempted to eyeroll or sigh, but these physical cues can have a huge impact on your child and how they next approach you when they need to talk.

  1. Remind them you support them

Having tough conversations can become negative quickly, especially ones that evoke high emotions. Let them know you love them and can come to with anything. It’s important to reassure your child and let them know you are on their side no matter what.

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