Good mental health means that you have the necessary skills to deal with everyday life — things like responsibilities, relationships and even relaxing. When children suffer from depression, anxiety, and other concerns, it can be even more difficult to get them to open about their feelings and thoughts. Below, you will find some tips for helping children talk about what they are thinking and feeling.
1. Let kids know it’s okay to talk at their own pace. For kids, it can be difficult even beginning to talk about their emotions or feelings. Children need to know that they don’t have to go into their deepest feelings and thoughts right at the start. It’s up to the children as to how much they want to share and it’s okay for them to take it slowly. Don’t be surprised if the first couple of times you try to talk to you children, they remain closed. It may take some time for them to get to a point where they feel comfortable.
2. Let children know that discussions regarding mental health are much more than just one conversation. They need to know that they don’t have to discuss everything at once or to only one person. Your children may feel more comfortable talking to your older sister, perhaps your younger brother, a grandparent, even a therapist, instead of you. They need to talk to whomever they feel comfortable with; however, that person does need to be able to get help for the child when needed.
3. Let kids know that it’s okay to talk about the serious stuff. Children don’t need to feel as though they need to downplay what they are feeling or thinking. They may feel that talking about the really bad stuff will make you ashamed of or mad at them. You have to keep your own emotions in check and let your child talk candidly. You may not be prepared to hear what is said, but try not to cut off the conversation.
4. Ask how you can help. It’s important that children know that they can come to you with their thoughts and feelings, no matter when it is. You should reassure them that if you can’t help, you will find the right person who can.
5. Make sure they have a safe space to talk. Children need to feel safe when they are sharing their innermost thoughts and feelings. If divorced, you may want to include your child’s other parent in the conversations, as long as he or she will be supportive. If your teen is LGBT, many adults are not comfortable talking about such issues. Having someone talk to your child about these issues who is against your child’s sexuality can cause even more problems. It could end up where your child won’t open up again for some time.
6. Make a date to talk. Your child may thrive on a set schedule, including when to talk. Perhaps you and your child want to talk every Sunday afternoon while having ice cream at your favorite ice cream shop. However, it’s important that your children know that they can come to you whenever they want to talk. Also, let them know that the subject doesn’t always have to be about mental illness.
7. If more serious mental health issues are involved, make sure your child understands the treatment plan. Talking is a part of most mental health treatment plans, but there can be many more, such as medications. Your children need to understand that therapy and other treatments are for their own good and can help with their specific issues.
8. Let your children know that you love them and you will be here for them. This is important because many children who suffer from mental health conditions feel like they are alone. Letting your children know that you love them no matter what and that you are here to help in any way you can be a big boost for your relationship.