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How to Speak with Your Kids About Mental Health

How to Speak with Your Kids About Mental Health

March 2 was World Teen Mental Wellness Day. While mental health is important every day, this annual special day helps raise awareness of stressors and issues young people face and the resources available to help them cope. It also is the perfect opportunity to learn how to communicate effectively about mental health with your kids. It's a conversation that's as crucial as it is complex. Here are some tips to guide you through speaking with your kids about mental health.

Starting The Conversation

First, remember that you know your child best. Start with a casual conversation in a comfortable, quiet setting. You might say, "I've noticed you've been seeming a little down lately. Is there something on your mind?" or "How are you feeling about school these days?" These open-ended questions can pave the way for more in-depth discussions.

If your child is not open to speaking, it’s okay not to force discussions of mental health. Build up the conversations by normalizing the topic and building trust.

Normalize The Topic

Mental health, like physical health, is a part of our overall well-being. By speaking openly about it, we can help remove the stigma around these issues. You could say, "Just like we go to a doctor when we have a cold, it's perfectly okay to talk to someone when we're feeling sad or anxious."

Speaking of your own experiences with mental health also can help normalize the topic. Giving your children first-hand experience with someone they trust may help them be more open to speaking about it themselves and not viewing mental health issues or health concerns as taboo.

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Listen, Don't Lecture

When your child opens up, listening is the most important thing you can do. Acknowledge their feelings without judgment, and reassure them that it's okay to feel the way they do. Avoid offering immediate solutions or dismissing their feelings. Instead, respond with empathy, and allow them space to ask questions. Questions can open a dialogue that can help them relate to and understand better what people who have similar struggles. Especially for younger children, who may be new to the concept of mental health, questions can be a great tool for them to learn how and when to ask for help and who can support them in working through their emotions.

Use Age-Appropriate Language

Keep the dialogue straightforward and age-appropriate. For younger children, you might explain that everyone has feelings, and sometimes we feel happy, and other times we might feel sad or scared—and that's okay. Coloring and drawing also can be effective tools to help children explore feelings and topics with those who can help them cope.

For teenagers, you can delve deeper into different types of mental health conditions and their symptoms.

Encourage Healthy Habits

Discuss how regular exercise, a balanced diet, adequate sleep, journaling and limited screen time are not only good for their physical health but also mental health. Encouraging physical activity with the whole family also can help instill the importance of exercise from a young age. Take walks, hike, ride bikes, or visit the park together as a family.

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Reinforce The Availability of Help

Remind your child that they're not alone; there are many resources available, including mental health professionals who are there to help. If your child is comfortable, you could explore these resources together.

Make It Ongoing

Make discussions about mental health a regular part of your conversations. This will create an open, trusting atmosphere where your child feels safe to discuss their feelings.

Remember, it's okay if these conversations feel awkward at first. What's important is that you're making the effort to engage in them. And we're here with you every step of the way, providing information and support.

Behavioral Health Services in Middleburg, Ohio

Supporting your children by speaking about mental health can create a positive environment where they feel comfortable understanding, prioritizing and discussing mental health. At Southwest General Health Center, we aim to help you and your kids with dignified care and compassion in all aspects of mental health. To learn more about our services or to request an appointment, visit our website at