Talking about and understanding mental health as an adult is difficult. It is a hard conversation to start for some.
Now, picture what it is like for children. Physical health is taught in school starting at an early age to show the importance, yet, mental health is not until high school or further. Like our bodies, our brains can get sick as well. We see kids experience mental illness themselves younger and younger, or they witness it with a friend or family member. As much as it is scary, and that we worry the topic may be upsetting, it can help them understand their emotions at a young age.
Kids absorb more then we realize, so getting them talking about what they feel can end the stigma surrounding mental health before it begins. But as adults, we can lead by example and show them that having depression, anxiety, bipolar, and other mental illnesses are nothing to hide and be ashamed of. The more people feel that they can reach out, the more help that is available, and the more knowledge we have to help people; the stronger the possibility of lowering the youth suicide rate.
Here are a few things to remember when talking to children about mental health.
Talk about emotions:
Sometimes kids will feel guilty, reassure them that it is not their fault.
Whatever their emotions are, they are valid.
You can get them to draw or write how they feel.
Depending on the age, getting them an emotions journal can help them express themselves.
Use appropriate language:
Be sure you can answer any questions they may ask, if not look for the answer together.
Don’t talk down to them but use wording to their age level.
Listen and respect their feelings, do not correct the words they use to describe their emotions.
Do not interrupt them; it will be hard for them to explain something they are having a hard time understanding.
Let them know you are there when they are ready to talk when they are.
I hope this helps.
Until next time,