Having good mental health is vital to developing wellbeing in both children and adults. It is important to acknowledge that not only the body can get ill, but also the mind. Some parents may be scared to introduce the topic since it may be upsetting and complex, however emphasising good mental health allows our kids to be more emotionally adept and more understanding of their feelings. Being open with our kids about mental health is important, regardless if they are or are not suffering from mental health issues but how do we start that conversation?
1. Talk about emotions
Throughout the day, acknowledge your feelings and normalise different emotions in different situations. Allow your kid to talk about their emotions and what caused them to feel a certain way.
2. Bring up the topic at a good time
Bring up the conversation of mental health after sharing a joke or snack together. Do not start the conversation when emotions or tensions are high since that may cause them to associate mental health with negative experiences.
3. Use analogies
Analogies can be helpful to explain the topic of mental health and allow kids to understand it more. Use situations kids are familiar with and ask questions about how they would feel about it to show how mental life is very real and can relate to a multitude of different situations.
4. Address their worries
Reassure that mental illness is nothing to be embarrassed about and is treatable. Let them know that it is not contagious and talk them through any outstanding questions they may have.
5. Encourage them to develop help seeking behaviour
Let them know that it is okay to ask for help when needed. This will help them be more open with their emotions and more willing to reach out when something is bothering them or is not okay.