Discussing with your child about mental health can feel uncomfortable due to the stigma involved in this topic, not to mention fears of possible blame. However, openly talking to your kids is one way to lessen the stigma surrounding it. While starting the conversation can be challenging at first, you can make the process less awkward with the help of some tips. Here are five tips for talking to your children about mental health.
1. Help Them Get Out And Active
Encourage your child to get active and explore the great outdoors. Spending time outdoors has been found to benefit mental health and prevent depression and anxiety. Regular exercise can strengthen your child’s brain since it releases chemicals that can encourage a positive mood, helping them to be more resilient to adversity and stress. The good news is that there’s no right or wrong way to exercise. Anything that can help your child to stay active should be good for their mental health. Even sports like football and basketball are considered good exercise.
Playing outdoors also helps your child to develop self-confidence, self-esteem, and independence. It also teaches them the importance of setting boundaries and facing challenges. When your kids are used to playing outdoors, they will be more likely to try new activities, engage with other kids of different backgrounds and races, solve problems, make friends, and develop resilience.
As your kids grow up, they will experience rapid and different psychological and physical changes. Such changes can significantly influence their overall health and mental wellbeing. Not only outdoor play will improve your child’s mental health. It can also improve their physical fitness. The freedom and joy of being outdoors will encourage more expansive movement for your kids, leading to good physical exercise and preventing conditions like obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
2. Plan Activities Together
One of the easiest ways to open up to your child about mental health is to do activities together. Most kids find it easier to talk when doing activities they enjoy. For instance, you can play games or take them on a scenic walk in the park or by the beach. The fun helps to take the pressure off since they do not need to sit still or make eye contact with you at all times, making pauses and silences less awkward.
In addition, if your kids are busy with something on their hands or focused on other things, it will be easier for them to reflect or think more clearly. Instead of making it feel like a “big chat,” the conversation can begin more naturally while doing something you and your kids enjoy.
If you have younger kids, you can try playing ball games or creating something together, such as puzzles and arts and crafts. While at it, you can open up about mental health. Meanwhile, for older kids, you can organise a cookout or perhaps take them shopping. You can also discuss mental health when dining in a restaurant or having coffee at a coffee shop.
3. Learn About The Signs
It can be hard to tell if your child has a mental disorder that you need to worry about. Besides, every kid can have tantrums and gets moody at times. As a parent, you can take advantage of plenty of free courses online that teach about the most common signs your child is struggling with mental health issues. Partaking in these free courses will also teach you how to navigate mental health as a parent.
Significant changes in your child’s behaviour or personality are among the most common signs of mental health problems. Frequent mood swings that can get in the way of your and your child’s daily life can also be a sign. In addition, extreme worry, sadness, or fear that lasts for several weeks are signs of a possible mental health disorder in your child.
Parents must also be mindful of fear that suddenly shows, accompanied by physical signs like a rapid heartbeat, that could indicate their child is having a panic attack. Behaviour change is also among the tell-tale signs of a mental health problem in your child. Be mindful of out-of-control behaviour, getting into fights, and deliberately hurting themselves.
4. Learn More About What They Need From You
As a parent, one way to protect your child’s mental health is to learn more about what they need from you and address these needs. Talk to your child about their experiences at school. Find out what they enjoy the most and what aspects of school they find challenging, then determine how you can help them with these challenges.
Establish a quiet and relaxing corner in your home where your kids can focus on their studies. No matter how busy you can get, allocate some time each week to assist them with their homework.
When it comes to your kids’ friends, make sure you know who they hang out with the most. Support the development of their friendships. Allow your kids to spend some time with their friends and encourage them to do activities they enjoy, even if it’s outside the home. More importantly, avoid being too intrusive with your child’s relationship with friends and give your child some privacy.
5. Be Open And Non-Judgmental
When discussing mental health issues with your child, you must avoid judging them. Never invalidate their feelings because this could keep them from opening up to you in the future.
Listen without judgement when your kids open up about their struggles with mental health. Allow them to express what they feel, and be careful with the words you will use when talking to them. Be sensitive about their feelings.
As a listener, put your opinions aside and avoid getting distracted by your thoughts and feelings. The aim should not be to judge or criticise your child but to listen and absorb everything they tell you. Non-judgmental listening means trying to understand what your child is telling you. It goes beyond hearing the words and involves understanding and absorbing everything your child says.