Talking about Mental Health
As parents, it can be difficult to find the right words to express how we feel about certain topics. Addressing mental health with children can be especially challenging, as there are a lot of nuances, language considerations, and risks to consider.
That being said, it’s incredibly important to have those conversations with children and to educate them on the topic of mental health. Talking about mental health not only sets up children for success as they get older, it also enhances communication and establishes an open dialogue between parents and young people. Let’s discuss why it’s so important for parents to talk about mental health with their children.
It Sets a Positive Example for Confronting Mental Health
When parents are open to talking about issues related to mental health, it sets a healthy example for children of a safe and open environment that is conducive to confronting matters related to mental health and wellbeing. This can significantly reduce the stigma of mental health, something that is still pervasive in many communities today.
By having these conversations in a safe space and modeling openness, parents can make it easier for their children to open up if they are ever in need of help in when searching for mental health services.
Mental Health Conversations Teach Healthy Coping Mechanisms
When parents discuss mental health with their children, they can directly explain and model healthy coping mechanisms for children. Even though many mental health habits start in early childhood, parents can continue to reinforce positive ideas and behaviors into adulthood too.
Certain techniques can include journaling feelings, talk therapy, mindfulness techniques, or exercises such as yoga or tai chi. Other techniques such as art, music, or regular conversations about mental health can also be beneficial. Good coping skills will stick with a child for life and serve as one of the most valuable abilities to teach.
It Helps Increase Awareness and Empathy
Much of the dialogue around mental health centers around different elements of awareness, understanding, and empathy. When parents discuss mental health in a meaningful way with children, they can introduce an array of topics such as mental health diagnoses, the result of stigma, and what a person can do to better take care of their mental wellbeing.
These conversations will help increase awareness and understanding within the home, making a difference in the lives of children when they’re exposed to these issues outside of the home. Additionally, having these conversations can also help increase empathy in children—specifically, it can help to develop empathy towards those dealing with mental health issues.
It Makes More Resources Accessible
When parents talk to their children about mental health, they make mental health resources accessible. As youth become knowledgeable about the services and treatments available to them, they become empowered to reach out for help. From online resources to community programs, children are able to develop resources that suit their needs—and ones their parents learnt about.
The comprehensive knowledge of resources that are available can help lead to more effective treatments for children, leading to longer-term success.
It Promotes Mental Health Literacy
By having open conversations about mental health, parents can help to increase their children’s mental health literacy. Mental health literacy refers to one’s ability to understand, manage, and make informed decisions regarding mental health and wellbeing.
As children become more informed, they’ll be more likely to seek help when they feel they need it, seek out proper and accurate information, and make healthier decisions when such opportunities arise.
It Will Help Create a Safer and Open Environment
When conversations—big and small—are held in and around the home, it helps to break down the stereotypes and stigma associated with mental health. This in turn can lead to less fear and more willingness to talk about mental health issues.
Having these conversations in a safe, judgment-free environment will also create an understanding north/nurturing and supportive environment around mental health that will extend beyond the home.
Talking about mental health with children can be a tricky task. That being said, it is important to talk about mental health in order to promote mental health literacy, enhance resources, increase awareness, and teach coping mechanisms.
To promote conversations on an ongoing basis, it’s beneficial to normalize the conversations. Letting children know that it’s okay to talk about mental health issues, and that there is absolutely nothing wrong with seeking help when needed, is the right way to approach these sorts of conversations.
By enhancing a larger dialogue around mental health, it will become easier to talk about and more favorably viewed within the home, school, and community. It will also open up an opportunity to learn and develop skillsets to promote better mental health and wellbeing.