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How to Talk to Your Kids About Mental Health 

This topic has been on my mind for a while now, as it is so important to start this conversation at home! I saw Inside Out 2 this weekend and was inspired to write more on this subject. Stay tuned for a webinar or workshop on this soon!

 

It can be hard and awkward to talk about things like sex, mental health, and safety with your kids, but also an important part of parenting these days. With the increased dependence on electronics, the internet, and social media, as well as more conversations around mental health, having a conversation with your child or teen about mental health is vital. Here’s a few pointers on where to start:

 

1.     Discuss your emotions (appropriately) and ask them about theirs. For instance, saying something like “I am frustrated, so I am going to take a break and come back to this conversation” or “I was so excited to spend time with you & am feeling disappointed that you made other plans” rather than yelling at them, freezing them out, or making passive aggressive comments because you don’t want to say anything or aren’t sure what to say. It is ok to name what you are feeling in the moment because you are modeling how they can share what they are feeling. A good prompt to use for yourself and with them is “I feel ___ because ___.” And if you want to take it a step further, adding “Can you please ____?” I’ll add that watching Inside Out 1 or 2 can also be helpful in starting the conversation about emotions, emotions related to puberty, and complex feelings that come up.


2.     Additionally, finding a time for a routine check-in can be helpful. For example, asking your children around the breakfast or dinner table about how their day was, their high/low from the day, and three emotions they felt that day.


3.     Taking care of one’s mental health is just as important as taking care of one’s physical health; mental and physical health are usually connected and impact each other as well. When your child is hesitant to see a therapist, it can be helpful to compare the two. You may tell them something like “Just like we go to a doctor once a year for a check up or when we are not feeling well, we go see a therapist to help our hearts/minds feel better. I’ll also note that your child feeling like the therapist is a good fit is also important.



4.     The last thing I will mention is internet safety. This includes how increased electronics affect our wellbeing, how social media can affect us and/or is a highlight reel for people’s lives, and how talking to strangers on social media, online, or in video games can be dangerous. I’ve seen an increase of teens meeting people online, meeting them in person and not telling their parents (or the person they are meeting tells them not to tell their parents), and then having some kind of conflict and/or manipulative situation with them. For instance, a teen follows someone on social media, starts a conversation with them, meets them in person, and then the person being pushy about physical intimacy. When the teen didn’t do what they wanted, they had the teen buy them food or made them feel guilty. In another instance, a teen met someone on an online game, started talking more and more, and then the person threatened suicide (manipulation) because the teen would not do what they wanted. In each of these situations, the teen thinks they are talking to another teen, but there is no way to know that for sure. Not to mention, our teens are losing the important skill of talking to people in person 😊

 

There is so much more I could say about this, but I will end by saying that it is not uncommon for children or teens to not listen to their parents about these subjects. They might roll their eyes or get annoyed. AND it’s important that we have these conversations anyways. It is also important to make sure they have other trusted adults (at church, at school, in your neighborhood, a therapist, or someone else) that they can confide in about these things. It takes a village, y’all.

 

Questions? Email us! If you would be interested in a workshop or webinar on this topic, let us know and we will add you to the interest list & email you more info when we have it.

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